The Chinese government has been accused by some of its citizens of abducting more than a dozen children from an impoverished district during most of the last decade to sell on a profitable worldwide black market.
The rural area at the center of an article on the abductions published in The New York Times Friday has been tied to at least one U.S. adoption agency, raising questions whether any of the at least 16 children taken from the area were adopted by American parents.The director of the agency, China Adoption with Love Inc., told the Times that it can't conduct an investigation without evidence and a specific request.
"I'm an adoption agency, not a policeman," Lillian Zhang, the agency's director, told the Times.
The newspaper interviewed grandparents, parents and people who live in Longhui County in Hunan province where the abductions took place between 1999 and 2006. A government probe was launched after the Chinese magazine Caixin first reported on the abductions in May, but the Times reports the inquiry appears to be a whitewash.
The payoff for the area's government orphanage processing the abducted children is the $5,400 donation foreign parents must make before they can adopt.
A May 2005 abduction of a 9-month-old girl exemplifies what locals came to fear. Government family-planning officials approached a house after spotting the girl's clothes hanging to dry. After the girl's grandmother tried to hide her in a pigsty, the officials ordered the grandfather to pay them the equivalent of nearly $1,000 because the girl's parents allegedly never registered their marriage.
Such an amount is five times the area's average household income, the Times reports. The grandfather was given the option to sign a false document saying he wasn't related to the girl, which he reluctantly did.
"I can't even describe my hatred of those family planning officials," the girl's father told the Times. "I hate them to my bones. I wonder if they are parents, too. Why don't they treat us as humans?"