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Twin baby girls rescued as China maternity hospital trafficking probe continues

By David McKenzie, Zhang Dayu and Tim Hume, CNN
August 10, 2013 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Twin baby girls are the latest to be rescued from a Chinese trafficking ring
  • The children were allegedly taken and sold by a maternity doctor
  • A baby boy allegedly taken by the doctor was recovered Sunday
  • Authorities are investigating scores of other cases

(CNN) -- Police in China have rescued twin baby girls allegedly sold by a maternity doctor, bringing the number of infants recovered from the suspected trafficking ring to three, state media reported.

They are to return them to their parents Saturday.

The provincial government in Shaanxi, northwest China, announced the twin's rescue Thursday, the state-run China Daily reported. The parents, mother Wang Yanyan and father Qi Kunfeng, of Dongcheng village, Fuping County, were scheduled to reunite with their children Saturday.

Police had earlier recovered a baby boy allegedly sold by the same obstetrician to traffickers, and reunited him with his parents Monday.

Chinese newborn, allegedly sold by doctor, is returned to parents

The doctor allegedly at the center of the scandal is Zhang Shuxia, deputy director of the maternity department of the Fuping County Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital, reported state-run CCTV.

Doctor accused of taking, selling babies
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Since news of the scandal broke, police have received reports of 55 similar cases from local residents, including 26 cases pointing to Zhang, China Daily reported. Police launched investigations into five of the reported cases, and Zhang was detained on suspicion of human trafficking.

The parents of the allegedly trafficked twins told CNN that after Wang gave birth at the hospital on May 29, Zhang convinced them to give up the children, telling them that the girls had serious health issues.

"The doctor was pretending to be very anxious, telling me that my babies have congenital problems. She said the twins would be brain damaged or paralyzed," Wang said.

The couple never saw their children after the birth, they said.

"I insisted on seeing the babies, but she wouldn't let me," said Wang. They trusted Zhang. "I never suspected that she was selling my babies, because she was a family friend," she said.

The twins' father, Qi, told CNN that the loss of the children had a profound impact on the couple.

"Every night for two months my wife would cry, and she couldn't eat from worry."

Of Zhang, his former friend, he said: "I think she is evil. She is a terrible person."

"We trusted her so much. How could she be so cruel to sell our babies?"

First baby returned

Authorities returned the first rescued baby Monday to his parents, who were overcome by emotion. Its identity was confirmed through DNA testing. As family members wept, the parents knelt to thank police for recovering their son, the state-run China Daily reported.

Fuping County authorities said Zhang sold the baby boy for 21,600 yuan ($3,527) on July 17, the day after he was born. The baby was then sold two more times in ten days' time.

Police said Zhang told the child's parents, Dong Shanshan and Lai Guofeng, that their son had contracted syphilis through the mother, and convinced them to surrender the boy into her care, reported the state-run People's Daily.

But the mother subsequently tested negative for syphilis and grew suspicious. She went to the police. The infant was found Sunday in a good condition in a town in neighboring Henan Province.

Most of the affected families hailed from the same village as Zhang and her mother, CCTV reported.

Zhang made false claims that the children had serious ailments, from heart problems and cerebral palsy to missing genitals, to convince parents to part with their babies.

Officials sacked

Another couple from the area told CCTV Zhang had convinced them to give up their baby son at the hospital in 2008, after telling them shortly after the birth that the infant had stopped breathing.

"The whole delivery was around 10 minutes, natural birth. And then she came out and told me that the baby wasn't breathing," recalled Dong Pengfei, the father. "I was overwhelmed by that time, and I didn't have second thoughts. But after that I've been thinking why she would refer to it as a 'kid' if it wasn't breathing."

"I couldn't stop crying ever since I gave birth to my boy," his wife told CCTV. "I feel like crying when I see kids from other families."

Two government officials and three hospital officials have sacked over the scandal, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. China's state health commission has called for severe punishment for those involved.

A CNN crew was tailed by officials and told to stay away from local residents while reporting the story.

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