I had only been in China for a few months the first time someone told me I could buy a baby in China. I had told one of my new friends at our school in rural, northern Hunan about my dream of adopting a child in China. “Why bother with that?” she asked. “Just go to the countryside and buy one for 10,000 RMB.” This suggestion is one that I have heard repeatedly during the years I have lived here. I make no secret about our desire to grow our family through adoption, and most people I meet, while curious, are anxious to help. I have been told to “simply buy a baby” in every place I have lived, from rural Hunan to the metropolis of Shenzhen. I usually reply with “well, we have to adopt legally so that we can get our child American citizenship.” This is enough for them, but I can’t help but wonder about just how easy it is for Chinese people to “buy babies.”
A recent story in the Shenzhen Daily was a real eye-opener on this issue. An article entitled “Child Buyers May Face Punishment” explains that “a draft amendment to the Criminal Law being considered by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress advocates ‘light punishment’ for buyers who don’t harm abducted children or hinder their rescue.” The article goes on to say that “most buyers treat abducted children as their own, and won’t be punished, said Chen Shiqu, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s anti-trafficking office.” Currently, people who buy abducted children in China do not face legal consequences if caught.
Child trafficking in China is a huge problem. China has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world, with numbers ranging from 20,000-200,000 each year. Too often, kidnapped children are not just sold domestically, but to international adoption agencies as well. The kidnapping problem even affects China’s Southeast Asian neighbors, with many girls and women in neighboring countries kidnapped and trafficked into China as “brides” for China’s growing bachelor population.
I know the pain of not having a child. My adoption journey has spanned over a decade and we are still waiting. Of course, if adoption was as simple as “buying a baby,” it would be tempting. I want a baby more than anything. But adoption laws and procedures exist for many reasons, chief among them the protection of the child. It is important to make sure that adopted children are not stolen and that they will be well taken care of. How could you sleep at night knowing that the only reason you are a parent is because you stole someone else’s child?
The adoption system is flawed – and I mean every adoption system in every country and the international programs. The rules are too strict and the programs are much too expensive, but you don’t solve those problems by going outside the system – especially if going outside the system means kidnapping someone else’s child.
While I am completely sympathetic to the pain that would drive parents to buy a child to complete their families, I cannot condone their actions. People who buy children from child traffickers are child traffickers, and they should face legal consequences. Every link in the child trafficking chain must be smashed to stop this horrendous crime, and that includes the buyers who only want to be mommies and daddies.
I hope that the Standing Committee endorses the draft amendment that was presented to them that all buyers of stolen children be punished.
What about you? Do you think people who buy stolen children should be punished? Let me know in the comments.