(Photo: Reuters/Simon Thong)
A Chinese doctor has been sentenced to a suspended death penalty after a court found her guilty of abducting and selling seven newborn babies over a two-year period. The doctor's case has shed negative light on China's child trafficking problem.
Zhang Shuxia, an obstetrician at a hospital in the Shaanxi province, was found guilty of selling seven babies to a human trafficking ring from November 2011 to July 2013. Zhang reportedly convinced parents of the newborn babies that their child was infected with a disease or disabled. Once she persuaded the parents to give up their children, the infants were sold to a trafficking ring, which in turn sold the babies to other families.
Zhang received on average 20,000 yuan each for a female baby, while one male baby she sold in 2011 sold for 47,000 yuan.
The Weinan Intermediate People's Court in Weinan, Shaanxi Province sentenced Zhang to the death penalty with a two-year reprieve for her involvement in the human trafficking business on Tuesday. Zhang's two-year reprieve most likely means her death penalty sentence will be changed to a life imprisonment sentence, as long as she doesn't commit any crimes within the next two years.
The court released a statement condemning Zhang's actions, saying the former obstetrician's "actions violated professional ethics and social morals. Although she partly admits her guilt, her case is considered serious."
Zhang showed remorse in court, saying in a statement that she is "deeply sorry for the pain I have brought to those families and beg for forgiveness."
One set of parents became suspicious of Zhang's activities last year, when the doctor had told the parents that their newborn boy had contracted syphilis and hepatitis from the mother and could not live a normal life in society due to his illness. The parents agreed to give up the baby, but the mother was quickly tested to find that she was not in fact infected with any diseases.
The parents voiced their suspicion to local officials, and their infant son was recovered a month later by police. He had been sold to a farmer with three girls in the Henan province for 60,000 yuan ($9,800).
Zhang's case has shed light on China's chronic problem with human trafficking. As the AFP reports, parents are often times willing to give up a disabled or sick child due to the country's one-child policy that only allows one child per household. Also, there exists a widespread social stigma against disability in Chinese culture.
China's legislature recently endorsed a resolution that would modify the country's controversial one-child policy by allowing two children to a family if one of the parents is an only child. The previous policy allowed two children per family if both parents were only children.