Doctor found guilty of baby trafficking in China, gets suspended death sentence

A Chinese court on Tuesday convicted an obstetrician, Zhang Shuxia (centre), of abducting newborn babies and gave her a suspended death sentence. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
A Chinese court on Tuesday convicted an obstetrician, Zhang Shuxia (centre), of abducting newborn babies and gave her a suspended death sentence. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese court on Tuesday convicted an obstetrician of abducting newborn babies and gave her a suspended death sentence, it said, in a case that drew widespread outrage.

Zhang Shuxia sold seven children in the northern province of Shaanxi, the intermediate court in Weinan said on a verified social media account, adding that she had tricked parents into giving up their babies by telling them the newborns were sick or had died.

The penalty is normally commuted to life imprisonment.

Zhang obtained most of the newborns by telling their parents that they were sick or had died, before selling them to traffickers for prices reaching 47,000 yuan (S$9,840), the court said.

The case highlighted child trafficking in China, where tens of thousands of children are believed to be stolen each year. Most are sold within the country to meet demand fuelled by a one-child limit and traditional preference for sons, while parents accuse apathetic police of failing to investigate.

The court found that Zhang had persuaded a mother to give up a pair of newborn female twins last year on the grounds that one had died of disease, while the other had injured arms and legs.

Chinese parents are sometimes willing to give up disabled children because of the limits imposed by the country’s one-child policy, as well as widespread social stigma about disability.

Another baby she sold was later found dead in a ditch, dumped by a trafficker, the court said.

Zhang had received 20,000 yuan each for several female babies, it added, while one male baby fetched a price of 47,000 yuan in 2011.

Several intermediate baby dealers were implicated in the case, and some of the babies she abducted were later found by police and returned to their parents, the court said.

It sentenced Zhang to death with a two-year reprieve, adding that her actions "had a negative impact on society".

A photograph posted by the court showed the middle-aged Zhang in a puffy brown jacket flanked by police officers.

China does not publish figures on how many children are seized every year but said it rescued 24,000 in the first 10 months of 2013, probably a fraction of total cases.

Police have sometimes refused to open cases because the low chance of cracking them might hurt their performance record, and have resisted pursuing families who buy the babies.

So far five officials have been sacked in Fuping, including the director of the county’s health department and the head of the hospital where the children were born, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

But reports said that Zhang may have sold many more children, and according to state media police have received reports of 26 incidents allegedly involving the doctor.

Chinese internet users celebrated the verdict, while many called for a stiffer punishment.

“She should die, she is the shame of the medical profession,” one user wrote on Sina Weibo, a social media service similar to Twitter. Another wrote: “The death penalty should be carried out immediately.”

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