By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

BEIJING, March 31, 2010 ( – The bodies of 21 infants were found floating or lodged in the mud of a river near the eastern Chinese city of Jining last weekend, according to a China Daily report.

The bodies—some in diapers, some in plastic bags marked “medical waste”—were found under a bridge over the Guangfu river.

Eight of the bodies were said to be wearing identification bands on their ankles showing they had come from the Affiliated Hospital of Jining Medical University.

The grisly discovery has sparked outrage all over China, with Chinese-language news services and Internet websites denouncing the hospital and the morgue workers.

A man who had been fishing in the river told a local television station, “We noticed that something had been washed up against the bank. At first I though they must be plastic dolls. But when I got closer I saw they were real babies.”

Another resident pointed to a tiny body, wearing only a diaper, lying on the muddy bank. “I couldn’t believe that they were real but they were. And as I walked along I saw more and more.”

A Chinese blogger wrote, “”This is shocking. It makes me wonder whether this is a civilized society,” while a TV news anchor said, “These infants never had a chance to walk on this earth and that is already their tragedy. But shouldn’t you then dispose of them properly instead of just tossing them out? These people have the hearts of dogs. They are hateful and contemptible.”

Reports suggest most of the dead babies were females who had been allowed to die or were aborted and dumped because parents wanted to keep the option open for a male child within China's coercive one-child system.

Human rights groups and international population experts have long denounced wide scale sex-selective abortion and female infanticide in China.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, police have arrested two hospital morgue workers, Zhu Zhenyu and Wang Zhijun, who had “privately struck oral agreements with the families of the deceased babies to dispose of their remains and had taken payments from them.”

“They took the corpses to near the Guangfu River and disposed of them. They failed to bury them properly, so that they were exposed to view and discovered,” reported Xinhua.

Xinhua then blamed the incident on “local custom and a lack of regulation.”

Cao Yongfu, deputy director of the Medical Ethics Institute at Shandong University, said in the Xinhua interview that traditionally some parents don't view an aborted child or a baby who died in the first days of life as “one of their family members.” He said such views could cause them “not to care much about the dead babies.”

Cao added that while there is no legal definition for a dead fetus in China, it is not appropriate to classify it as medical waste and regulations must be introduced as soon as possible to determine the legal status of infant bodies and deal with them in a respectful manner.

“There should be regulations for dealing with the infant bodies and dead fetus that comply with both laws and folk customs,” he said. “Otherwise, there will always be loopholes for hospital management.”

Local residents told the media that the actual number of babies' bodies dumped in the water may be much larger because “a lot of people throw dead bodies in the river instead of giving them a proper funeral.”


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