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Crackdown on illegal birth certificates in China after hospital revelations

Crackdown on illegal birth certificates in China after hospital revelations

China is cracking down on the illegal trade in children’s birth certificates, which according to the country’s top health regulator are being bought, sold and forged at hospitals across the country. Caixin Global reports that the National health Commission (NHC) has deployed teams to Hubei, Guangdong, Guangxi and other provinces to “urge and guide local governments to thoroughly investigate” illegal birth certificate networks, according to a statement published on November 17.

Earlier in the month, allegations arose that a Hubei hospital director was selling birth certificates online at 60,000-90,000 yuan (roughly US$8,200-12,000) apiece that were to be used to register fake identities for kidnapped and trafficked children. She is also alleged to have sold false vaccine records and, according to the South China Morning Post, “even babies.” The hospital in question, Jianqiao Hospital, had its obstetrics and gynecology department shuttered as a result, and several doctors and nurses have been banned from practicing.

More allegations followed on Hubei’s heels, with institutions in Guangdong Guangxi facing similar claims and investigations. Child trafficking and kidnapping are common in China, where a decades-long one-child policy has created a black market for surrogate births of infant boys (and had disastrous consequences for girls), and many parents are willing to sell their babies for the right price. Hospitals are the only places allowed to issue birth certificates, which are needed for kids to attend school and access social services. For those with the means and no other options, shelling out 100,000 yuan (approximately $14,000) to buy an identity for a child might seem worth it.

In 2020, China tried to roll out birth certificates that included the biometric information of a newborn’s biological parents as a measure against child trafficking. The certificates were slated to be introduced nationwide by the end of 2021. The current status of the project is unclear.

According to Reuters, birth rates have fallen in China to their lowest since records began in 1949 at just 9.56 million births in 2022.

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