Parents in China, faced with hefty government fines for having more than one child, look to unregulated adoption websites for a way to solve their baby quandary.
Lu Libing knew he had only one choice as the birth of his third child approached. He couldn’t afford hefty fines that would be meted out by Chinese authorities, so he put the unborn child up for adoption.
On the Internet he found A Home Where Dreams Come True, a website touted as China’s biggest online adoption forum, part of an industry that has been largely unregulated for years.
Expectant couples, unwilling or unable to keep their children, go to the website looking for adoptive parents rather than abort their babies or abandon them.
There are no clear statistics on how many people use these websites but A Home Where Dreams Come True said 37,841 babies had been adopted through its website from 2007 to August 2012.
More than 380 babies were rescued and 1,094 people arrested when the government cracked down on the industry last month. Adoption websites such as A Home Where Dreams Come True, whose founder was arrested, were shut because they were deemed illegal and responsible for the trafficking of babies.
An official with China’s state-run adoption agency, the China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption, said parents could apply to the civil affairs ministry to give up children.
The official, who declined to be identified, said it was “definitely wrong” to use websites. “These are children, not commodities,” the official said.
Baby trafficking has been a perennial problem in China and recent reports on online trafficking rings show how an underground industry has made use of the Internet to connect people quickly, making it easier to buy and sell babies. This has presented a new challenge for the government.
Demand for such websites has been fuelled by rural poverty, China’s one-child policy, limiting most couples of only one child, and desperate, childless couples.
Lu, 30, who asked to use a pseudonym for fear of official retribution, lives on the outskirts of Ganzhou in southern Jiangxi province, a barren place scarred by water contamination and heavy metal pollution.
He and his wife, Mu, live from hand to mouth in a two-bedroom home in an unfinished block. Their two children, aged two-and-a-half and 10 months, live with Lu’s parents in northern Shaanxi province.