- Chinese authorities have arrested an obstetrician for allegedly trafficking babies
- The doctor would convince parents to give up their children by saying they were gravely ill
- A baby boy was returned to his parents Monday after being recovered by police
- Police are investigating five similar cases at the same hospital in Shaanxi Province
Chinese health authorities have promised an overhaul in hospitals across the country following the arrest of an obstetrician for allegedly selling newborns to human traffickers, state media reports.
Police in Fuping County in China's northwestern Shaanxi Province said that the doctor in question, Zhang Shuxia, had allegedly sold other babies to traffickers in the past. Police were investigating 10 similar cases at Fuping County Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital, where Zhang was deputy director of the maternity department, reported state-run CCTV.
The latest baby was returned to its parents amid emotional scenes on Monday, after 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 the baby boy had been allegedly sold for 21,600 yuan ($3,527) by Zhang on July 17, the day after he was born. The baby was then sold two more times in ten days.
Police said Zhang had allegedly 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 when the mother subsequently tested negative for syphilis, she grew suspicious and reported what had happened to police. The infant was eventually found in a good condition in a town in neighboring Henan Province Sunday.
Zhang and five other suspects have been detained on suspicion of human trafficking, reported Xinhua.
CCTV cited six other alleged trafficking cases involving Zhang dating back to 2006, including a pair of twins earlier this year. Health issues cited by Zhang in convincing the parents to surrender their children included heart problems, cerebral palsy and missing genitals.
It reported that most of the affected families hailed from the village of Xue in Fuping County -- the home of Zhang and her mother.
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."
China's state health commission has called for severe punishment for those involved.
"(The commission's leadership) see it as morally degraded, illegal and intolerable," said Mao Qunan, spokesman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The commission vowed to impose stricter management of medical services and implement stronger ethics training across the country to prevent similar cases.