China probes case of baby taken from parents in 1990s, suspends two health officials

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China has suspended two health officials in the southern region of Guangxi as authorities investigate the case of a baby boy taken from his parents by local government officials in the 1990s, an incident that provoked a torrent of criticism online.

The case, which was among those drawing the largest number of comments on Chinese social media, comes amid a crackdown on abduction and trafficking of women after public uproar about incidents of women chained or caged by men who bought them.

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The boy’s parents, Tang Yueying and Deng Zhensheng, filed a petition for police in the county of Quanzhou to investigate their son’s whereabouts after he was taken more than 22 years ago, under a one-child policy prevailing at the time.

In comments on social media platform Weibo posted on Tuesday, Tang said the local health bureau to which their case had been transferred had said the baby was taken away because of a “social adjustment” policy under the one-child rule.

The bureau said it refused to recognize the case as human trafficking, a description used by many who commented online.

China only relaxed in 2016 its one-child policy that had banned births of more than one child from 1980. During that period, authorities routinely enforced family planning measures, including fines, to punish illegal births.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Guilin city government said Quanzhou’s health bureau chief and vice chief had been suspended from work as an investigation was underway.

The Quanzhou health bureau and the Guilin city government did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters seeking comment.

Reuters was not able to contact the parents directly to seek comment.

A prolific Chinese commentator and former editor of the state-backed Global Times, Hu Xijin, weighed into the issue on Weibo, calling the “social adjustment” policy harmful.

“If Quanzhou county did engage in a unified social adjustment of additional children born more than 20 years ago, it would be obviously wrong and very inhumane, according to people’s understanding today,” he said in a posting.

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