2011: How Caixin exposed government-sanctioned child trafficking

2011: How Caixin exposed government-sanctioned child trafficking

From 2002 to 2005, Shaoyang City (Hunan province) experienced what is referred to by locals as the “wave of baby snatching,” during which the local family planning department forcibly took 13 infants from their families. Several were later found to have been sold to adoption agencies in Western countries for a price of 3,000 USD each under the same family name “Shao”.

This article tells the stories of several Chinese families whose children were taken away. The account of the “Shao orphans” was initially reported in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper in 2006, but this Caixin report was the first in-depth investigation published inside mainland China. After the report was released, city and county authorities opened a joint investigation and dismissed 12 officers despite officially finding “no evidence” of child trafficking.

The reporter Pang Jiaoming, who published under the pen name Shangguan Jiaoming, had been following the case for several years but had not found any newsroom willing to release the story. After Caixin finally published it in 2011, Pang’s email account and personal computer were hacked. Pang stated that the Central Propaganda Department later found his real identity and ordered Caixin to fire him, but the newspaper kept him under a different pen name until he left Caixin in 2013. A year later, the journalist published a book on the case.

About Caixin

Caixin, which means “new fortune” in Chinese, is one of the few privately-funded Chinese media outlets. Founded by journalist Hu Shuli in 2010, it continues to publish critical investigative reports. In 2021, following Caixin’s revelations on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Cyberspace Administration of China removed it from its list of pre-approved websites, significantly curbing its reach and influence. Regardless, Caixin remains the world’s largest subscription-based media outlet outside of the United States and the United Kingdom with over 900,000 paid readers as of 2022.

The “Orphans” Named Shao

On the long journey of searching for his child, Yang Libing, a man from Hunan, carries a photo covered by a plastic film. The girl in the photo is named Yang Ling, his first child, who should be seven years old this year.

In 2005, Yang Ling, while she was still a baby, parted from her relatives. She was not abducted by human traffickers. She was forcibly taken away by the local officials from the office of family planning under the pretext of unpaid “social maintenance fees.”

Four years later, Yang Libing finally learned of his daughter’s whereabouts — she was far away in the United States.

One day in 2009, Yang Libing and his wife Cao Zhimei were in a hotel in Changde, Hunan, and they received two photos of a girl from a stranger. “At first sight, I could be sure that she was my daughter,” Yang Libing said.

The Yang family’s ordeal is not an isolated case. Over the past many years, in Longhui County of Shaoyang City, Hunan Province, at least nearly 20 infants have been taken away by the family planning department, leaving their parents behind. The explanation given by the local family planning department is that these infants were mostly abandoned babies “illegally adopted” by farmers. However, in reality, a considerable number of these infants are biological children of their parents, and some were not even born in violation of the family planning policy.

Between 2002 and 2005, the actions of the family planning department forcibly taking away infants under the pretext of violating the family planning policy reached a peak in GaopingTown, Longhui County. Many years later, out of the persistent efforts made in searching for their children by some parents, similar incidents have come to light. These incidents even involve countries, including the United States and the Netherlands.

Part One: Baby snatching

Once the target is identified, family planning personnel, ranging from as few as four or five to over a dozen, under the leadership of village cadres, swiftly surround the target family and forcibly take away the infants. The only condition for redeeming the children is to pay money.

Longhui County in Shaoyang City, Hunan Province, is an impoverished county. To reach Gaoping Town, one heads north for over 70 kilometres from the county town.

Despite its seemingly small population, Gaoping Town has faced pressure regarding family planning over many years.

In the early 1970s, China began implementing the family planning policy characterised by the “one-child” policy. In 1982, the family planning policy was established as a fundamental national policy. At that time, like many other places nationwide, Hunan Province implemented a “veto” system for family planning work.

According to this system, local government leaders would face consequences for violating the prohibitive provisions of the “Law on Population and Family Planning” and the “Regulations on Population and Family Planning of Hunan Province.”  These people in charge of population, family planning work, and their staff would not be eligible for awards, promotions, transfers, or appointments for one year.

For over a decade, Longhui County has maintained the title of “Advanced County in Family Planning Work” in Hunan Province. It has even stricter punishment and evaluation detailed rules. Under layers of assessment pressure, grassroots governments even resort to using violent means. In the villages of Gaoping Town during that time, slogans like “Whether you comply or not, it takes three minutes. If you are still non-compliant, ’you will experience a ‘tornado’” were often seen.

Villagers explained that this meant family planning officials would carry out ideological work with non-compliant families, typically taking only about three minutes. If the family still did not comply afterwards, their valuable belongings would be swept away as if by a tornado.

Furthermore, the slogan “If the son runs away, we will search for the father; if the father runs away, the house gets demolished” is also chilling. Yuan Chaoren, a farmer from Xishan Village who has been punished for having extra children, told journalists from Caixin’s Century Weekly magazine that before 1997, the punishment for violating the family planning policy was to “destroy the house” and “arrest the adults.” He himself had his house demolished due to exceeding the birth limit.

“After 2000, they stopped demolishing houses and started ‘confiscating’ the children,” Yuan Chaoren said.

The “confiscation of children” mentioned by Yuan Chaoren is one of the methods used by the family planning department in Gaoping Town to deal with violations of the family planning policy. The procedure involves family planning officials entering villages and households to take away infants suspected of being born or raised illegally.

As a result, whenever family planning officials went to villages for inspections, villagers would flee elsewhere. During the period from 2002 to 2005, there was what was colloquially referred to as “the wave of baby-snatching” in Gaoping Town.

“Confiscating” Yang Ling

Yang Libing vividly remembers that on the afternoon of 29 July 2004, his daughter was born at home.

That afternoon in Gaoping Town’s Fengxing Village, Yang Libing’s wife Cao Zhimei was having contractions. Yang Libing’s father called for the village midwife, Yuan Chang’e.

Recalling for journalists from Caixin’s Century Weekly magazine, Yuan Chang’e said that when she arrived at Yang Libing’s home, Yang’s mother was accompanying her daughter-in-law. “It was around four or five in the afternoon, and the birth went smoothly,” she said.

After the birth of their daughter, the Yang family named her “Yang Ling.” After nurturing her for six months, Yang Libing and his wife left their hometown to seek employment in Shenzhen, “leaving the child to be raised by her grandparents.”

One day in May 2005, Yang Libing called home and received shocking news: “Our daughter has been taken away.” He hastily rushed back home from Shenzhen, but it was too late.

Yang Libing couldn’t understand why their firstborn daughter had been taken away. Later, he guessed the reason: because both he and his wife were working away from home, and their daughter was being raised by her grandparents. Family planning officials mistakenly assumed that the girl had been adopted by the elderly couple, thus including this case in the collection of “social maintenance fees.”

Yang Libing’s father recalled to journalists from Caixin’s Century Weekly that on 29 April 2005, around ten people, including Liu Tangshan from the family planning office in Gaoping Town, came to their home. “They were very fierce. When her grandmother saw them, she held the child and hid, and later, they hid in the pigsty.”

The family planning officials eventually found Yang Ling, who was being hugged by her grandmother hidden in the pigsty. They demanded to take away this “illegitimate child” because the Yang family hadn’t paid the “social maintenance fee.”

On the afternoon of the incident, Yang Libing’s father followed them to Gaoping Town. “They said that we had to pay 6,000 CNY to get the child back.” Despite borrowing from various sources, they only managed to gather 4,000 CNY. “When I went back the next day, the people from the family planning office said, even if we paid 10,000 CNY, we wouldn’t get the child back,” he said.

At that time, the family planning staff had already taken Yang Ling to the Shaoyang Social Welfare Institute. Due to poor communication, Yang Libing didn’t return to Gaoping Town until several days later. When he arrived at the town to demand his child back, the child had already been sent away. A conflict occurred during their quarrels.

Yang Libing recalled that the town’s family planning officials promised him that if he stopped pursuing this matter, they would allow him to have two more children in the future without paying fines. “They promised to issue me two ‘birth permits.’“

The “birth permit” was later renamed “Family Planning Service Certificate” and served as the main document in China to prove the legal status of newborns. To control population growth, couples of childbearing age must obtain this document from the local family planning department before having children. It is the legal procedure for childbirth.

Yang Libing paid no attention to these promises. When he arrived at the Shaoyang Social Welfare Institute, “I didn’t even know where my daughter was.” Yang said,” They ‘confiscated’ my daughter?!”

Separating twins

The children “confiscated” by the Family Planning Office were not just Yang Ling alone. As early as 2002, another couple from Gaoping Town had one daughter taken away by the same town’s family planning cadres.

Zeng Youdong is from Gaofeng Village in Gaoping Town and married Yuan Zanhua from Shanghuang Village. In 1995 and 1997, Yuan Zanhua gave birth to two daughters. After the second daughter was born, because they couldn’t pay the fine, their house’s roof was torn down by personnel from the family planning office. As a result, the couple had to flee elsewhere to make a living, vowing to have a son for the Zeng family.

When pregnant with their third child, Zeng Youdong and Yuan Zanhua hid at Yuan’s father’s house. “To avoid the family planning officials, we built a shelter in the bamboo woods,” Zeng Youdong told the reporter from Caixin Century Weekly magazine.

On 15 September 2000, in the small bamboo woods at her father’s house, Zeng Youdong’s twin daughters were born. Yuan Zanhua was assisted in childbirth by Li Guihua, a midwife from Shanghuang Village.

In an interview with Caixin’s Century Weekly, Li Guihua vividly recalled the situation at the time, “They were a pair of twins. One came out head first, and the second came out feet first.”

It’s hard to say whether the Zeng family was happy or troubled at that time. Yuan Zanhua swore, “I will give birth one more time. Whether it’s a boy or a girl, I won’t have any more.” In February 2001, Zeng Youdong and his wife decided to work in Chongqing with four children. “We decided to keep three with us and leave one to be raised by my wife’s brother-in-law,” Zeng Youdong said.

Accordingly, Yuan Zanhua’s brother-in-law Yuan Guoxiong and his wife Zhou Xiuhua took care of the older twin sister among the twin sisters for Zeng Youdong’s family.

Misfortune struck the following year. On 30 May 2002, more than ten people from the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office, including Chen Xiaoyu and Wang Yi, stormed into Yuan Guoxiong’s house in Shanghuang Village and took away the one-and-a-half-year-old child. Yuan Guoxiong’s wife, Zhou Xiuhua, was also taken away at the same time.

“At first, they asked for 3,000 CNY, then it increased to 5,000 CNY, and later they demanded 10,000 CNY,” Yuan Guoxiong and his wife once argued reasonably to the family planning officials, explaining that the child was being raised by then for their sister-in-law’s family. However, the family planning department was very strict, insisting that money had to be paid to redeem the child. Because they couldn’t afford the fine, the older twin sister was sent to the Shaoyang Social Welfare Institute.

Due to communication difficulties, Zeng Youdong and his wife were unaware of this at the time. In March of that year, Zeng Youdong and his wife, who were doing small business at the Chaotianmen Wholesale Market in Chongqing, were still immersed in happiness when Yuan Zanhua gave birth to the son they had been hoping for.

In 2003, Zeng Youdong, who returned home for his mother’s funeral, learned that his daughter had been taken away by the family planning office.

Nowadays, Zeng Youdong’s memory of the older daughter among the twin daughters has become vague, “She seems to have a little extra flesh on her right ear?”

Four types of infants

The experience of Yang Libing and Zeng Youdong is not an isolated case. In Gaoping Town, there are many infants and young children “confiscated” by the family planning office under the pretext of “having extra children” or “illegal adoption.” The conditions for reclaiming these children, without exception, involve paying money. The amount varies, entirely at the discretion of the family planning officials.

Yang Chaorong, a farmer from the 5th group of Wushandong Village, Gaoping Town, told the Caixin Century Weekly reporter that in August 2004, while working at a furniture factory in Dongguan City, Guangdong Province, he found a barely alive baby girl wrapped in a package while strolling. “This is a life,” Yang Chaorong saved the baby. At the suggestion of his co-workers, Yang Chaorong, who was 42 years old with no wife or children, raised the baby and named her “Yuan Qingling.”

In December 2004, Yang Chaorong brought the child back to his hometown and reported this matter to the village chief. He paid some money and hoped the village chief would help with the adoption procedure.

The next year, Yang Chaorong paid a monthly living allowance of 350 CNY to entrust his aunt to care for the child and left home again to work in the south.

However, on 28 July 28 2005, four or five family planning officials from Gaoping Town,  including Li Zijian and Chen Xiaoyu, broke into Yang Chaorong’s aunt’s home, claiming that the girl was “illegally adopted” and took Yuan Qingling away. They demanded 8,000 CNY to return her.

Yang Chaofu, Yang Chaorong’s brother, told Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter that when his brother was in Guangdong, he had repeatedly gone to the town’s family planning office to request the release of the child, only to be told that he had to “first pay the social maintenance fee.” Four months later, when Yang Chaofu returned home to fetch the child, he was told that the child had been sent to the Shaoyang City Social Welfare Institute.

Yuan Mingyou and his wife from the 10th Group of Dashi Village, Gaoping Town, gave birth to two boys and then the wife underwent female sterilisation. In 1999, while doing business in Shakou Town, in Honghu City, Hubei Province, they adopted an abandoned baby girl. At the end of the year, when Yuan Mingyou returned home for the New Year, he reported the matter to the village cadres and entrusted them to handle the adoption procedures.

Yuan Mingyou said that on 10 May 2002, after paying a 2,000 CNY social maintenance fee, the baby girl was registered at the Gaoping Town Police Station. On the first household registration, the baby girl was named “Yuan Hong” and her relationship with the head of the household, Yuan Mingyou, was recorded as “adopted daughter.”

Although the social maintenance fee had been paid and the household registration completed, on 29 July 2002, Liu Tangshan and four others from the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office still came to Yuan’s home and took Yuan Hong away. At that time, Yuan Mingyou and his wife were working in the fields. When they saw Liu Tangshan and others carrying the child away in a car, they chased after them.

“They took my daughter to the town family planning office,” Yuan Mingyou recalled to Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter, “They said that I was adopting her illegally, and asked me to provide a handprint. They said I had to pay 40,000 CNY to get her back, or they wouldn’t release her. Finally, they said I had to pay at least 30,000.”

However, when Yuan Mingyou brought the money to the family planning office the next day, his daughter was already gone. “There’s a mole the size of a bean under her neck.” When Yuan Mingyou recalled, tears welled up at the memory of his adopted daughter.

Ironically, three years after Yuan Hong was taken away by the family planning office, on 30 December 2005, when Yuan Mingyou’s family applied for a new household register, Yuan Hong was still listed as a member of the Yuan family. On the household register, Yuan Hong’s relationship with the head of the household was listed as “daughter.” But Yuan Hong’s whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

Similar to Yuan Mingyou’s experience, Li Mohua, a farmer from the 2nd  Group of Hexing Village, Gaoping Town, also had his daughter taken away by family planning officials in 2002.

As early as 1998, the Li family had registered their adopted daughter, Li Yan. At that time, the “Adoption Law” did not yet include “provisions requiring registration with the Department of Civil Affairs at the county level or above” (this provision was added after the law was revised in November 1998). After their daughter was taken away, the Li family could not afford to pay the fine, and Li Yan disappeared.

In Huangxin Village, in the first half of 2002, villagers Zhou Yinghe and his girlfriend Tang Haimei got married. At the end of that year, they had their first daughter and named her Zhou Juan.

Like many rural areas in China, Zhou Yinghe and Tang Haimei, according to traditional customs, had a wedding ceremony but had not yet registered with the Department of Civil Affairs.

Three and a half months later, Zhou Yinghe and his wife went south to work in Guangzhou, and Zhou’s mother, Liu Suzhen, took on the task of caring for her granddaughter. However, Zhou Juan was eventually “taken away” by the family planning office of Gaoping Town.

According to Liu Suzhen’s recall to Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter, it was on 15 March 2003, “Eight or nine cadres. Again, came to take away children, and I ran away with my granddaughter and hid in a neighbour’s house.”

The family planning officials eventually found Zhou Juan, who was asleep in bed. “They said, ‘You elderly do not know how to take care of a child. We’ll take better care of her than you.’”  Liu Suzhen followed them to the family planning office, took photos, and pressed her handprint as required. “Then they let me go. They said I had to pay 15,000 CNY to get the child back.” Liu Suzhen was unable to raise the money, and her granddaughter was sent to the welfare institute by the family planning office.

Yuan Xinqun from the 4th Group of Maoping Village also had his first daughter taken away by family planning office workers. On 2 November  2005, Yuan Xinqun’s daughter was born. On 25 November of the same year, when his family was carrying the baby girl on the road, family planning office workers forcibly took her away.

Not only in Longhui County, but also in Dongkou County of Shaoyang City, similar situations have occurred.

On 2 December 2008, in Chengguan Town of Dongkou County, Hou Yongjun and Xiao Xuanli, a couple, had their new-born baby boy, only 40 days old, taken away by local family planning officials because they hadn’t promptly paid the social maintenance fee for having more children than allowed. The baby was returned later after someone interceded on their behalf.

According to preliminary statistics from villagers like Yuan Chaoren from Xishan Village, who had been penalised for having extra children, from 2000 to 2005, at least 16 infants in Gaoping Town, Longhui County, Hunan Province, were forcibly taken away by town family planning officials under the pretext of violating the family planning policy.

“There are four types of infants taken away. The first type is ‘premarital pregnancy’ (generally couples who have held wedding celebrations according to traditional customs but haven’t registered their marriage), and the second type is having extra children,” said Yuan Chaoren. In the first two situations, the infants taken away are biological children of their parents. “The third type refers to those adopted; some may not meet the adoption requirements. The fourth type refers to children who should be legally adopted children because they have already been registered!”

These four types of infants are targeted by local family planning officials. Villagers in various villages of Gaoping Town, scattered in the far-away mountains, are terrified at the mention of family planning. Some villagers say that whenever family planning officials visit households in the countryside, households with infants falling into the four categories mentioned above evaded them elsewhere upon hearing the news.

According to descriptions from many parents, the process of family planning officials taking away infants is almost identical.

After identifying the targets, family planning personnel, led by several village cadres, swiftly surrounded the households in question, with as few as four or five or as many as a dozen or more, they forcibly took away the infants. The only condition for redeeming the children is to pay a sum of money.

Through investigations and verifications conducted by reporters from Caixin’s Century Weekly by 2005, at least 16 infants had been forcibly taken away by family planning workers from Gaoping Town.

Part two: Sense of business

In addition to considerations of political achievements, discretionary fines have also filled the coffers of local finances. Driven by both political achievements and financial interests, infants and toddlers from families unable to pay fines were sent to welfare institutions. This thus gave rise to the profit chain of “abandoned infants.”

Longhui County has undergone a process of continually tightening enforcement of the national family planning policy.

In November 2001, due to prominent issues of violating the family planning policy, Longhui County began concentrating on a rectification campaign in Gaoping Town. More than 230 cadres were dispatched from across the county to reside in Gaoping Town to oversee the work in various villages.

During this period, the “out-of-plan birth fee” previously collected from those violating the family planning policy was uniformly renamed “social maintenance fee.”

The distorted “social maintenance fee”

According to the government’s definition, the social maintenance fee is defined as “fees levied on citizens who do not meet the statutory conditions for childbearing, to adjust the utilisation of natural resources, protect the environment, and appropriately compensate for the government’s public investment in social undertakings.” It is an administrative fee with compensatory and compulsory characteristics.

On 2 August 2002, the State Council issued Order No. 357, promulgating the “Measures for the Administration of Collection of Social Maintenance Fees.” The main objects of the collection were families with extra children, namely “citizens who do not meet the provisions of Article 18 of the Population and Family Planning Law.”

According to the “Hunan Province Population and Family Planning Regulations,” families with unmarried childbirth, having extra children, and illegal adoptions are all required to pay social maintenance fees.

During the campaign to rectify family planning issues in Gaoping Town, Longhui County, the county court deployed seven judges to Gaoping Town to facilitate the collection of social maintenance fees. Additionally, four police officers were dispatched from the local police station to assist in enforcement.

In 1999, Longhui County “boldly explored” and established the Family Planning Administrative Judicial Panel, composed of judges and civil servants from the County Family Planning Commission (appointed by the court as assistant judges). The daily operations were managed by the Family Planning Commission. The main task of this court was to enforce family planning administrative cases, mainly fines or charges. This  “successful experience” was later promoted throughout the province.

Through the campaign, the momentum of having extra children in Gaoping Town was somewhat restrained. However, in the economically distressed mountains, traditional beliefs such as “to bring up children for the purpose of being looked after in old age,” “male superiority over females,” and “more children bring more blessings” did not change accordingly.

On 22 March 2005, Longhui County proposed to strengthen family planning management in the form of “county-town-village tripartite joint management.” Apart from “veto power,” incentives such as job promotion and economic rewards were used to stimulate the enthusiasm of family planning cadres.

Against this background, the promotion and salary treatment of officials at the county, town, and village levels were “tied” to family planning performance. Officials in charge of family planning decided to “burn one’s own way of retreat and be determined to fight to the end” (a local family planning slogan). Once again, the slogans related to family planning filled the streets and alleys of Gaoping Town, such as “Anyone who dares to have more than one kid will lose everything.”

Why is the family planning department so keen on “confiscating” infants and sending them to welfare institutions? In addition to considerations of political achievements, one of the primary motivations is the revenue generated through the collection of “social maintenance fees.”

According to officials from Gaoping Town, after the abolition of agricultural taxes, the town often struggled to maintain the salaries of its cadre workforce. Collecting social maintenance fees is not only about implementing the national family planning policy but also about supplementing local government revenue.

The phenomenon that social maintenance fees are not spent as required is common in Hunan Province. According to preliminary statistics from the Hunan Provincial Population and Family Planning Committee, the proportions of non-standard expenditures of social maintenance fees in 2004 and 2005 were as high as 88.04% and 87.11% respectively. The majority of these funds were spent by township governments. The Hunan Provincial Finance Department has criticised township governments for “directly benefiting from and utilising social maintenance fees.”

On 17 May 2006, Longhui County issued an inspection report on family planning for the first half of the year. The report stated that “some townships use social maintenance fees as the main source of township finances. The finance offices are unable to develop other sources of revenue, so they can only try their best to look for this money.”

The above inspection report further stated, “Some townships set monthly quotas for the family planning office to hand over social maintenance fees. Otherwise, they will deduct the salaries of family planning office personnel. “The family planning office in townships” does not prioritise important tasks such as prenatal examinations and the implementation of contraceptive measures, neglects more challenging tasks, but only focuses on lucrative tasks such as collecting social maintenance fees.

In 2010, Longhui County Magistrate Zhong Yifan said in a speech at the county’s spring campaign and mobilisation meeting for population and family planning work that under the pressure of “veto power,” there existed deep conflicts of interest between township party committees, governments, and family planning teams. They dared not offend each other, resulting in the family planning team manipulating the party committees and governments.

In April 2002, Zhou Xiaofang became the director of the family planning office in Gaoping Town. At that time, Liu Shude, the deputy secretary of the town party committee, was in charge of family planning work in the town. In order to remove the “yellow card warning” due to family planning issues, Gaoping Town conducted a special concentrated rectification campaign, with the main task being the collection of social maintenance fees.

At that time, the family planning office became the largest department of the Gaoping Town government. Out of more than 120 staff members in the town government, the family planning office accounted for 30. According to Zhou Xiaofang, there were about 100 infants annually who were either retroactively registered for birth or identified as exceeding the birth limit in the entire town.

The staff of the family planning office began searching for and targeting families with extra children, “unmarried childbirths,” and “illegal adoptions.” According to local officials, when Gaoping Town first started collecting social maintenance fees, the amount was around 3,000 to 4,000 CNY per person. However, when resorting to forcibly taking away children became a form of threat, the price escalated to 10,000 CNY or even tens of thousands of CNY.

Adoption scandal of “abandoned babies”

Infants taken away by family planning office workers are not just leverages for collecting social maintenance fees. Informed sources claim that for every infant sent to the welfare institution, family planning officials could receive a reward of 1000 CNY or even more.

However, when interviewed by the Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter, Jiang Dewei, director of the Shaoyang City Welfare Institution, did not directly respond to this claim.

The Shaoyang City Welfare Institution confirmed that between 2002 and 2005, the civil affairs office and family planning office of Gaoping Town in Longhui County sent a total of 13 infants, among which one male infant was reclaimed. Other infants who were not reclaimed were declared “abandoned” through the civil affairs publicity process and entered the social adoption process—mostly through international adoption channels.

“The adoptive parents need to donate a certain amount of the adoption fee,” said Jiang Dewei. According to normal practice, for each Chinese orphan (abandoned baby) adopted, foreign adoptive families usually need to pay 3000 USD. In Hunan Province, after the Adoption Centre of the Civil Affairs Department receives the adoption fee donated by the adoptive parents, the vast majority of it is allocated back to the welfare institution.

Under this temptation of interest, some people specialise in the business of trafficking infants. In November 2005, local media in Hunan Province once exposed a trafficking case involving a gang in Qidong County, Hengyang City. The mastermind behind the scenes was several welfare institutions in Hengyang City. These welfare institutions colluded with human traffickers to buy infants and turn them into “abandoned babies,” sending them into international adoption channels to profit from it.

Since 2003, the Hengnan County Welfare Institution has “bought” 169 infants; the Hengshan County Welfare Institution has “bought” 232 infants; and the Hengyang County Welfare Institution has bought the most infants, up to 409.

According to the verdict of the Qidong County Court in Hunan Province, in order to send more infants available for adoption abroad, welfare institutions in Hengyang City not only assigned the task of searching for infants to their staff but also actively “purchased” infants through various intermediaries such as human traffickers. The welfare institutions paid up to two to three thousand CNY to “buy” infants, and after sending them for adoption abroad, they could receive 3,000 USD.

The aforementioned cases have uncovered a glimpse of the adoption scandal of the “abandoned baby,” making welfare institutions the legitimate intermediaries for “whitewashing” human trafficking. On 22 February 2006, when the Qidong County Court in Hunan Province publicly tried this baby trafficking case involving welfare institutions, it caused a sensation both at home and abroad.

Coincidentally, during the period when the welfare institutions in Hengyang City were aggressively “buying” infants, it was also the time when various villages in Longhui County experienced a “wave of ”baby-snatching.”

In July 2009, Chinese media once again revealed incidents where family planning departments forcibly took away infants born of the birth limit, sent them to welfare institutions, and made profits via international adoption processes. In Zhenyuan County, Guizhou Province, family planning departments forcibly took away infants born of the birth limit whose families couldn’t pay fines. After sending them to welfare institutions, they were declared “abandoned babies” through processes like “seeking relatives’ notice.” Many infants were sent for adoption in countries such as the United States, the Netherlands, and Spain.

Similar to the welfare institutions in Hengyang City years ago, the Zhenyuan County Welfare Institution receives a “sponsorship fee” of 3,000 USD for each infant sent for adoption.

The “abandoned baby” production chain

In order to turn these forcibly taken infants into legally “abandoned babies,” the personnel of the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office falsified or fabricated relevant archives and documents.

Based on these materials, Caixin’s Century Weekly reporters interviewed and verified the case file of Yang Libing’s daughter taken away by the family planning office in 2005.

That year, the case was based on Yang Libing “illegally raising a child.” The person in charge of filing the case was Liu Shude, then the deputy secretary in charge of family planning work in Gaoping Town, with handling personnel, including Liu Tangshan, Li Hongwang, and Luo Wei, from the family planning office. The case file included a closing report, a filing approval report, comprehensive materials, two interrogation records of Yang Libing, Yang Libing’s application, civil affairs certification, proof of village committee, proof of police station, proof of village cadre, and ten other documents.

Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter confirmed through interviews with relevant parties that except for the marriage registration certificate issued by the Gaoping Town Police Station of  Yang Libing, which was genuine, the other nine documents were all fabricated or falsified.

In the interrogation record of “Yang Qingzheng,” the written material showed that “Yang Qingzheng” admitted that their raised infant was “picked up by his son, Yang Libing, from outside,” and stated, “Listen to the government’s handling.” In multiple places on the record where “Yang Qingzheng” was supposed to sign, bright red fingerprints were stamped. However, the Yang family stated that no interrogation record was ever made for Yang’s father, and Yang Libing’s father’s correct name should be “Yang Qinzhen,” not “Yang Qingzheng.”

In the interrogation record and “application” of Yang Libing, signed and fingerprinted on 30 April 2005, “Yang Libing” claimed, “I voluntarily applied to send the picked-up child to the Shaoyang City Social Welfare Institution for care, and I have no regrets.” However, the fact is that Yang Libing, who was in Shenzhen at the time, only learned about this a month after his daughter was taken away.

“This is all fabricated,” Yang Libing told Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter.

The proof of the village cadre document was issued by Wang Xianjiao, the secretary of the Fengxing Village branch. The certificate stated that when Yang Libing was working outside, he “picked up a girl, unnamed, and left her at home to be taken care of by his father. Our villager. Yang Libing does not meet the adoption conditions, and his father is old and unable to care for the child.”

In fact, Wang Xianjiao’s house in Fengxing Village is separated from Yang Libing’s house by a mountain. “I did tell the town’s family planning cadres that Yang Libing’s family was raising a girl at the time, and I heard that she was picked up,” Wang Xianjiao told Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter. “I wasn’t too sure about the situation at the time. But I definitely didn’t write this certificate.”

After seeing the photocopy of the “proof materials” provided by the reporter, Wang Xianjiao confirmed, ”I can’t write that well. The signature and fingerprint are also not mine. The character ‘jiao’ in my name is the same from the legendary dragon ‘Jiaolong,’ while the ‘certificate’ was signed ‘Wang Xianjiao’ with a different character ‘jiao.’

In the reports submitted by Gaoping Town to higher authorities on “illegal family planning cases,” similar to Yang Libing’s case file, all the related materials indicated that the parties involved unanimously “admitted” that the infants were found abandoned babies with unknown origins.

In response, Chen Yong, the former secretary of the Gaoping Town Party Committee, said that the forcibly taken infants were biologically related but at the time, villagers were afraid of paying social maintenance fees while still wanting to continue giving birth to boys, so they all claimed to have adopted them.

Zhou Xiaofang, the then director of the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office, said that families who gave birth to daughters often left the infants with relatives to avoid punishment for violating family planning policies. When family planning officials enforced the law, villagers denied that the raised infants were their biological children.

However, when Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter interviewed and verified the relevant parties involved in the case files, none of the raised families with blood relations claimed that these infants were abandoned.

“What they took away is my granddaughter!” Liu Suzhen, who was raising her granddaughter Zhou Juan for her son Zhou Yinghe, burst into tears when recalling the situation when her granddaughter was taken away. She said that at the time, she and her granddaughter Zhou Juan were locked on the second floor of the family planning office, and family planning officials asked her to put her fingerprint on a document. Illiterate Liu Suzhen didn’t know what was written on it.

Regarding the forgery of “abandoned baby” documents, Liu Shude, who was in charge of family planning work in Gaoping Town at the time, told Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter, “It is impossible to fabricate.” Zhou Xiaofang, the then director of the Family Planning Office, told Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter that there was already a conclusion at that time. There wasn’t such a matter told by them (referring to those parents searching for children).

The overnight investigation report

Confirmed by the Shaoyang City Social Welfare Institute, among the 13 infants taken away by the family planning department in Gaoping Town, Longhui County, at least 7 were the biological children of their foster families. Later, the parents continued to protest and resist consistently.

Parents who lost their children in the “wave of baby-snatching” sought each other out and found families with similar experiences. They formed a rights protection group and demanded justice from the local government.

On the evening of 10 March 2006, the Longhui County government learned that several parents of the abducted infants planned to go to Beijing to petition for their rights. Sheng Maolin, the then secretary of the Shaoyang Municipal Party Committee, and Xiang Cai’ang, a member of the Shaoyang Municipal Party Committee and secretary-general of the Municipal Party Committee, issued instructions, requesting Longhui County to investigate and handle the matter.

That night, the county party secretary Yang Jianxin and county magistrate Zhong Yifan issued instructions respectively to establish an investigation team. The next morning, Longhui County selected 11 personnel from four departments including the County Party Committee Office, Commission for Discipline Inspection, Family Planning Bureau, and Propaganda Department to form a joint investigation team. The team, led by Chen Yunhe, the deputy director of the County Party Committee Office and director of the Supervision Office, went to Gaoping Town to conduct the investigation.

Just one day later, on 12 March 2006, the report of the joint investigation team was released. The investigation team confirmed that 12 infants had been taken away by the family planning office personnel. The 12 households investigated were Wei Taixi from Hexing Village, Yuan Mingyou and his wife from Dashi Village, Wang Yi’e and his wife from Baidi Village, Zhou Leping and Liu Suzhen from Huangxin Village, Luo Rubing and his wife from Jinfengshan Village, Nie Xianyin and his wife from Xingsheng Village, Zhou Yingxi and his wife from Jinfengshan Village, Yuan Jiashi from Huixiao Village, Zhou Yingming and his wife from Datian Village, Yang Qingzheng from Fengxing Village, Yuan Guoxiong and his wife from Shanghuang Village[RL1], and Yuan Xinquan from Maoping Village.

The aforementioned investigation report stated that among the 12 children taken away by the family planning office, 11 did not meet the adoption conditions and had not gone through any adoption procedures, constituting illegal adoption. “Under the circumstances where the adoptive parents actively proposed sending them to the social welfare Institute, they were all transferred to the Shaoyang City Social Welfare Institute for care.”

The investigation team acknowledged that only Yuan Xinquan and Sun Ge’s daughter was “born before the marriage,” and Yuan Xinquan and his father requested assistance from the family planning office staff to send the baby girl to the Shaoyang City Social Welfare Institute.

However, after interviews and verification by Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter, among the 12 households mentioned in the investigation report, it is not true that “the origin of the infants or young children is unclear” as stated in the report. In households including Zhou Leping and his wife from Huangxin Village, Yang Qingzheng and his wife from Fengxing Village, and Yuan Guoxiong and his wife from Shanghuang Village, the infants they were caring for were all biologically related to them.

Among them, the couple Zhou Leping and his wife were raising their first child, born to their son Zhou Yinghe and his wife; “Yang Qingzheng” from Fengxing Village was raising his son Yang Libing’s first daughter, Yang Ling; and Yuan Guoxiong and his wife from Shanghuang Village were raising the elder sister of the twins, Zeng Dong and Yuan Zanhua, mentioned earlier.

In addition to the names listed by the investigation team, Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter, through interviews with parents and midwives at the time of childbirth, verified that at least seven of the infants and young children taken away by the family planning office were biologically related to their foster families.

Part 3: “Babies returning home”

The parents whose infants were “confiscated” embarked on a long journey to find their lost children. Many years later, they discovered that their child of blood relation had been turned into “abandoned infants” by the welfare institute and adopted by foreign families. Today, many parents have confirmed information about their children living abroad.

Wei Hailong returns home

During the “wave of baby-snatching,” the adopted son of Wei Taixi, a farmer from Group Five of Hexing Village, was one of the children who were forcibly taken away by the family planning department.

On the morning of 16 October 2005, six family planning officials from Gaoping Town broke into Wei Taixi’s house and took away his five-year-old son, Wei Hailong. The family planning officials left a message: “Pay (social maintenance fee) to redeem the person.” Wei Taixi’s family had to pay 6,500 CNY to get their child back.

Wei Hailong was an abandoned infant adopted by Wei Taixi. In 2000, while working in Fengcheng Town, Tianzhu County, Guizhou Province, Wei Taixi and his wife Long Rui (who had not yet registered their marriage) found a male infant who was about ten days old. According to Wei Taixi, since the couple was unable to have children of their own, they adopted the male infant and named him Wei Hailong. During the Chinese New Year that year, Wei Taixi paid 100 CNY to a village cadre, hoping to go through the adoption and registration process.

Six years later, when Wei Hailong was old enough to attend primary school, family planning officials Li Zijian, Chen Xiaoyu, and six others suddenly came to their home and took him away.

According to the Chinese Adoption Law, the establishment of an adoption relationship requires the following conditions to be met simultaneously: no children of their own, the ability to support and educate the adopted person, no illness deemed unfit for adopting children medically, and being over 30 years old.

To address the widespread phenomenon of private adoption, in 2008, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Public Health, and the National Population and Family Planning Commission jointly issued the “Notice on Resolving Issues Related to Domestic Citizens’ Private Adoption of Children” (issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs [2008] No. 132). This notice proposes “distinguishing different situations and solving them properly,” including measures such as renewal of procedures. However, there were no provisions allowing authorities to forcibly take adopted children away from adoptive parents.

Facing extreme poverty, Wei Taixi couldn’t come up with the money. After some twists and turns, he sought help from Yuan Zhongfu, who was then a representative of the People’s Congress of Shaoyang City.

Yuan Zhongfu, a specialised farmer from Jiangwei Village, Gaoping Town, who had cultivated hybrid rice “five-coloured rice” and was elected as a representative of the 13th and 14th Shaoyang Municipal People’s Congress.

After receiving the Wei Taixi family’s plea, Yuan Zhongfu approached Liu Shude, the then deputy secretary of the Gaoping Town Party Committee in charge of family planning work. Liu’s response to Yuan was that the child had been sent to the welfare institute and that they needed to pay 10,000 CNY in social maintenance fees to get him back.

In this regard, Yuan Zhongfu utilised his identity as a member of the National People’s Congress to separately report this matter to the People’s Congress and the county government departments of Longhui County.

In response to Yuan Zhongfu’s appeal, the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office reported to relevant higher authorities on 2 November 2005, stating that Wei Taixi was not yet 30 years old (born in December 1975), which did not meet the requirement of being over 30 years old stipulated in Article 4 of the Adoption Law; in addition, the adoptive parents did not comply with the requirement of “registering with the civil affairs department of the county-level or above people’s government” regarding adoption. There was also no proof of whether Wei Hailong was an abandoned infant.

In the aforementioned report, the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office also stated that since the adoption relationship was not established, Wei Taixi  “voluntarily claimed family difficulties and inability to support the child, requesting the town family planning office to send the child to a social welfare institution for upbringing.”

After interviewing and verifying, Caixin’s Century Weekly reporters found that the “application” submitted by Wei Taixi to the family planning office was also forged, similar to the case of Yang Libing’s application mentioned earlier.

While Wei Taixi’s family was demanding Wei Hailong from the family planning office, the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office reported to relevant higher authorities that Wei Taixi had fled in fear of being investigated for illegally adopting a child by the public security organs. In fact, Wei Taixi and his family had been fighting to get their adopted son back from the family planning department.

Upon learning the news that Wei Hailong had been taken away by the family planning office, Xuejie Elementary School, where Wei Hailong was attending, specifically wrote to the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office, hoping that the office would “prioritise the child’s education and allow him to return to campus as soon as possible.” However, the family planning office ignored the request.

Was Wei Hailong an “abandoned baby” or was he, as the family claims, “bought back” by Wei Taixi? To uncover the truth, Yuan Zhongfu travelled to Guizhou and other places to investigate. According to the confirmation from the shop owner, Lu Yuezhen, where Wei Taixi worked at the time, one evening in June 2000, they heard the cry of a baby outside the shop. Lu and others went out to investigate and found a male baby, less than a month old, in swaddling clothes left at the doorstep. “Perhaps they wanted to give him to me to raise,” Lu Yuezhen said, “But I didn’t want to. I thought about Wei Taixi’s wife’s inability to have children, so I advised them to raise the child themselves, which would also do good deeds.”

After confirming Wei Hailong’s status as an abandoned baby, at the urging of Yuan Zhongfu, in late November 2005, the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office and the police station brought Wei Hailong back from the Shaoyang Social Welfare Institute. After being taken away for 29 days, Wei Hailong finally returned home.

The road to finding children

The news of Wei Hailong’s return home ignited the enthusiasm of more parents to search for their children. After his daughter was taken away, Zeng Youdong went to the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office several times to demand an explanation but always returned empty-handed. “They said my daughter was picked up. After that, no matter what I said, they just ignored me. I went to the county police station to report several times, and the police officers promised to give me a satisfactory answer each time, but they ignored me later,” Zeng Youdong told Caixin’s Century Weekly reporters.

On 25 March 2006, to prevent his youngest son from being taken away again, Zeng Youdong took the initiative to go to the Family Planning Office to pay 14,400 CNY in social maintenance fees and arranged for his son’s household registration.

After Yuan Qingling was taken away, Yuan Chaorong rushed back from Guangzhou to demand justice. “They said I had illegally adopted her and even beat me up,” Yuan Chaorong told Caixin’s Century Weekly reporters.” I rescued this daughter of mine. She would have died if I hadn’t saved her. If she is still alive, I hope she is living well.”

Yuan Chaofu, Yuan Chaorong’s brother, vowed to seek justice for his brother. Four months after Yuan Qingling was taken away by the Family Planning Office staff, one day, the former secretary of the Gaoping Town Party Committee, Tian Changjin, told Yuan Chaorong that Yuan Chaorong met the adoption criteria, but an application was required for adoption. Yuan Chaofu recounted what Tian Changjin said to him that day, “He said, ‘I will connect you to someone. Pay some money and find another child to adopt. The previous girl is no longer an option; she’s gone.”

For this, Yuan Chaofu approached Liu Shude, the then deputy secretary of the Gaoping Town Party Committee in charge of family planning work. Liu did not give Yuan Chaofu a reply. The cost of demanding the child was that Yuan Chaofu was detained for five days. According to the determination of the Longhui County Public Security Bureau, Yuan Chaofu hit Liu Shude, so he was administratively detained.

“But it was a setup! We argued, and he called the police to arrest me,” Yuan Chaofu said. In order to prove that he was made appear guilty. Yuan Chaofu filed an administrative reconsideration with the Longhui County Public Security Bureau in March 2006.

After Yuan Hong was taken away by the Family Planning Office, Yuan Mingyou argued on the basis of reason, but the family planning cadres ignored him. The materials that can prove that Yuan Mingyou and his wife legally adopted Yuan Hong include eyewitness testimony at the time of picking up, the receipt for paying the social maintenance fee, and the materials proving that Yuan Hong had already legally registered for household registration.

“They don’t recognise any of these; they just tell me to pay money,” Yuan Mingyou told Caixin Century reporters. Due to limited economic conditions, Yuan Mingyou and his wife’s pursuit of their daughter stopped at the Family Planning Office at the town level. What made Yuan Mingyou even more angry was that nine years later, in November 2010, when the Yuan family submitted the rural cooperative medical care expenses, they were still required to pay their daughter’s share, despite her whereabouts being unknown.

The fate of “abandoned infants”

“Gaoping Town Civil Affairs Office now sends one female abandoned infant. Please accept.” From 2002 to 2005, the Shaoyang City Social Welfare Institute received applications from the Gaoping Town Civil Affairs Office and Family Planning Office to accept abandoned infants each year.

For these “abandoned infants” brought to them, the welfare institute accepted them without question.” They are also government departments, so we couldn’t doubt them,” explained Jiang Dewei, director of the Shaoyang City Social Welfare Institute, to Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter. According to customs, the time these infants entered the institute became their birthday, and their surnames were all uniformly changed to “Shao” – from Shaoyang.

In accordance with the relevant provisions of the “Adoption Law” and the “Measures on the Registration of Adoption of Children by Foreigners in the People’s Republic of China,” infants and children from the welfare institute could enter domestic and international adoption channels. In 2003, the “Several Provisions of the Ministry of Civil Affairs on Foreign Placement of Children for Adoption by Social Welfare Institutions” clearly stated, “When Social welfare institutions place abandoned infants and children for adoption, they are supposed to publish notices to search for in local provincial newspapers to search for the biological parents of the abandoned infants and children. If the biological parents or other guardians do not claim the abandoned infants or children after 60 days from the date of publication of the notice, they will be deemed as abandoned infants or children whose biological parents cannot be found.”

Caixin’s Century Weekly reporters consulted some issues of the Hunan Daily from 2002 to 2005 and found separate “Searching for Relatives Notices” issued by the Hunan Provincial Civil Affairs Department as well as those from the Shaoyang Social Welfare Institute. However, for the residents of Gaoping Town who live deep in the mountains or work in other places for years, these notices meant nothing to them.

This means that after 60 days of the notice, infants and children who had already been named “Yang Ling,” “Zhou Juan,” “Yuan Qingling,” “Yuan Hong,” “Li Yan,” and others were uniformly changed to the “Shao” surname. As a result, the local civil affairs departments and welfare institutes” determined them to be abandoned infants and placed them in accordance with the law.”

For many years, parents’ efforts to seek help from the outside world and trace the whereabouts of their biological children have never ceased. Various government departments in Hunan’s Shaoyang, the provincial capital Changsha, Beijing, and other places have records of their petitions.

On 10 March 2006, parents whose infants were taken away by the Family Planning Office in Gaoping Town and went missing collectively decided to petition in Beijing. When the local government learned of the news, the parents’ actions were blocked. On 21 March of the same year, the Hong Kong “South China Morning Post” was the first to report that the news of the Family Planning Office staff in Gaoping Town taking away infants and young children from farmers was known to English readers for the first time.

In the first half of 2007, parents approached mainland journalists to report related matters.

In 2008, the Netherlands, as the second-largest adoptive country for Chinese children, aired a television special on China’s orphan issue, where Dutch EO Television not only scrutinised possible oversights in adopting infants and young children from China but also accused the Shaoyang City Social Welfare Institute of allegedly turning infants and young children sent by the Gaoping Town Family Planning Office into “abandoned infants.” Photos of Yang Libing’s biological daughter, Yang Ling, before being taken away by Family Planning Office staff, appeared in the documentary.

On 20 September 2009, the Los Angeles Times published a report on issues related to abandoned infants and adoption in China, once again disclosing the news of numerous infants from Gaoping Town, Longhui County, being taken away and sent to welfare institutes. The United States is the country with the highest number of adoptions of Chinese infants and young children. This report sparked discussions among American readers.

In June 1996, the China Adoption Centre was established, marking the official start of international adoption work in China. To date, China has established adoption cooperation with 17 countries. On 18 January 2011, with the approval of the Central Committee’s Organisation Department, the China Adoption Centre was renamed the China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption.

According to the latest statistics released by the centre, over 100,000 orphaned and disabled Chinese children have been adopted by foreign families. It can be confirmed that some of the “Shao” infants sent to the welfare institute by the Gaoping Town Family Planning Department are among them.

“We have followed the policy regulations,” said Jiang Dewei, director of the Shaoyang City Social Welfare Institute, to Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter, stating that the adoption procedures at the welfare institute comply with regulations. Regarding the whereabouts of those “abandoned infants,” Jiang stated that according to the Adoption Law, they cannot disclose any information. Article 21 of the current Adoption Law stipulates, “If the adoptive parents or biological parents request to keep the adoption secret, others should respect their wishes and not disclose it.”

The tragedy of family bonds

In the end, the whereabouts of some infants and young children became somewhat clear. At the end of 2009, enthusiastic American readers, based on media reports, found information on three adopted girls that closely matched the situation— including details and photos from when they first arrived in the United States and recent photos.

These photos were faxed to Shaoyang. “This is my daughter!” exclaimed Zeng Youdong when he saw one of the photos. The girl in the photo looked almost identical to her twin sister, Zeng Shuangjie. “Can she speak Chinese? Will she come back to recognise us?” Zeng Youdong murmured. “We didn’t abandon her; she was taken away!”

According to information obtained by Caixin’s Century Weekly reporters from various sources, the adoptive parents of the twin sisters were an older American couple, and the husband passed away in 2010. After the information about the adopted daughters was disclosed online, the original contact information for this family became invalid.

The second person to learn about his daughter’s whereabouts was Yang Libing. He couldn’t remember which day in 2009 it was when someone claiming to be “Xiao Ye” said they found two girls whose information closely matched that of Yang Ling.

Yang Libing and his wife, Cao Zhimei, rushed from their workplace in Chenzhou, Hunan, to Changde. When they saw one of the photos of the two girls provided by Xiao Ye, Cao Zhimei burst into tears. “Yes! This is our daughter,” Yang Libing said, pointing to one of the photos.

Xiao Ye, who was in the United States, often worked as a translator for adoptive families there. Based on information about the adoption location, time, and other relevant details, Xiao Ye provided information that closely matched Yang Libing’s children. However, out of respect for adoption ethics, aside from confirming that Yang Ling was adopted by an American family, Xiao Ye did not provide any further details.

“The child is living well with her adoptive family in the United States, and her adoptive parents love her very much,” Xiao Ye told Caixin’s Century Weekly reporter. Before DNA testing is conducted, the adoptive family cannot be absolutely sure that the girl is Yang Libing’s daughter.” But I believe there will be a day when she will reunite with her biological parents,” Xiao Ye said.

According to informed sources who spoke to Caixin’s Century Weekly  reporter, among the over ten infants received by Shaoyang City Welfare Institute, “all have been adopted abroad.” More photos that closely match the missing children were faxed back. However, unless DNA testing is performed, the parents of the lost children dare not confirm who their own child of real blood is.

For Zeng Youdong and his wife, the basis for recognizing their daughter is their younger daughter among the twins, who are like two peas in a pod. Yang Libing recognised his daughter because he took photos of her before she was taken away.

The photo studio where Yang Libing took a family portrait is on a street in Gaoping Town. Every time Yang Libing passed by, the boss’s wife would always ask, “Have you found your daughter?”

After years of searching for their daughter, Yang Libing and his wife have lost interest in maintaining their livelihood, and their financial situation has become gradually difficult. After confirming that their daughter was still alive and in the United States, Cao Zhimei urged her husband to bring Yang Ling back as soon as possible. At the end of 2009, Cao Zhimei left without saying goodbye, running away from home.

“She left a message saying, ‘If you can’t even find our daughter who was taken away, what’s  the point of living with me?’“ Yang Libing’s eyes welled up with tears as he recounted the incident.” As long as she’s still alive, I must find my daughter.”

This article was published in Caixin’s Century Weekly, Issue 18, on 9 May 2011.

 [RL1]The Chinese text does not indicate whether the name mentioned is the husband or the wife, though conventionally the husband’s name is put in advance.