BEIJING, May 10, 2011 ( – A child-trafficking ring involving family planning officials in China’s Hunan province was revealed by Chinese media on Monday, May 9.

According to a report from Caixin Century Magazine, family planning “enforcers” in the Hunan city of Shaoyang, Longhui county, have seized at least 20 children over the past ten years. The children were supposedly born in contravention of China’s one-child-policy birth quota, and were sold to a local child welfare center for about 1,000 yuan ($154), who in turn listed them as orphans available for overseas adoption at $3,000 each.

Some of the children now live in the U.S., the Netherlands and Poland and have never met with their Chinese parents since being seized and sold for adoption, the magazine reported.

The report said village officials usually accompanied the enforcers when taking a child. Their explanation for the action was that either the child had been illegally adopted or the parents had breached the national one-child policy and could not afford the resulting fine.

The official China Center of Adoption says more than 100,000 orphans and disabled Chinese children were adopted by families abroad up to last year. The largest number now lives in the United States, according to the Caixin investigation.

“Before 1997, they usually punished us by tearing down our houses for breaching the one-child policy,” Yuan Chaoren, a villager, told the magazine.

“But after 2000, they began to confiscate our children.”

Some victims were actually a family’s first and only child, the report said.

The magazine quoted one man, identified as Yang Libing, who said his daughter Yang Ling was snatched in 2005 while he and his wife were working in another city, even though she was their only child. He said he has since located the girl, who is now 7 years old and living in the United States.

“They mistook my daughter as being illegal when my wife and I were working in Shenzhen,” Yang, a local migrant worker, told the magazine.

The Caixin magazine report noted that not only did the decision to “confiscate” the little girl serve to punish the parents, leaving them with “mere memories and a worn baby photo,” but it also provided “operating cash for the local government.”

The child-snatching peaked in about 2005, the Beijing-based magazine reported, saying that some welfare centers even worked with human traffickers to obtain children and reclassify them as orphans for “export.”

An anonymous employee with the Longhui County family planning office denied the alleged child trafficking, saying the office had improved from a year ago when accusations of “inappropriate work” first appeared.

“When we found illegal birth children, we fined the parents in accordance with the law,” he told the Global Times, a government-backed English language newspaper.

Analysts within China have criticized the lax adoption regulations which encourage family-planning offices to snatch babies, and welfare centers to repackage them into “products” for export, all in the name of profit.

Lu Jiehua, a sociologist with Peking University, told Global Times that pressure for career advancement may have led to the family planning officials to resort to extreme measures.

“They are under extreme pressure as all their job evaluations are related to the effectiveness of reducing the number of children,” Lu said. “Their job is difficult but that is no excuse for trafficking children, which is absolutely illegal.”

Shaoyang city government announced a joint investigation into the reported scandal alongside officials from the Longhui county family planning office, according to the government’s official Xinhua News Agency. Xinhua added that family planning officials in Longhui county had for years been among the nation’s most stringent enforcers of the one-child policy.

Caixin Century Magazine noted that human trafficking in babies is widespread in China but is seldom reported to outside media.

The full text of the English translation of the Caixin Century Magazine investigative report is available here.