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Smuggling of babies in China raises fears in the West
Toronto Globe and Mail


December 18, 2005

Allegations of a baby-smuggling ring in China have shaken North American families, prompting them to question whether their children were legitimately obtained and whether they should continue to donate thousands of dollars to Chinese orphanages.

"Of course we're concerned," said Kim Howarth-Peng, a Seattle woman who runs an association for American and Canadian parents who have adopted children from the state-run orphanage in Zhuzhou, which has been reportedly implicated in the baby-trafficking scheme.



Howarth-Peng adopted her daughter, Emily, in 1995, and along with the parents in her group, has donated about $15,000 worth of playground equipment, baby formula and other supplies for children still at the orphanage.

"Does this mean the documentation we have on our children is not true?" she wondered. "It does cause some families to step back and ask, should we continue to support the orphanage?"

A Chinese newspaper has reported that more than 50 suspects have been arrested for their involvement in the ring, which allegedly schemed to buy and sell at least 100 children.

The suspects are accused of selling the children for the equivalent of $110 to $165 each to orphanages. The orphanages then allegedly resold the children to other orphanages and childless parents for up to $4,200. Some of the children were reported to have been abducted from their parents.

But while some worried North American parents have spent the past few weeks phoning and e-mailing adoption agencies, the agencies played down the arrests. It's the first time such a scandal has struck China and isn't indicative of a widespread problem, said Martha Maslen, the executive director of Children's Bridge, a non-profit, international adoption service based in Ottawa.

The baby-smuggling reports only serve to harm Canadian families trying to forge a new life together, Maslen said, adding that the odds of having an illegitimate orphan were low.

The scandal has been linked to only a handful of the 50 or so orphanages used by Children's Bridge. Plus, two of the provinces where many of the children were reportedly sold - Guangdong and Guangxi - aren't heavily involved with Canadian agencies.

But one of the provinces, Hunan, does deal with Canada, and because of that, Maslen acknowledged she can't make guarantees.

"I'd love to think of some way to say definitely that your child wasn't involved, but I can't," she said.



Distributed to subscribers by Scripps Howard News Service,

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