INTERNATIONAL

21 babies found dumped in river in China

Ananth Krishnan

BEIJING: Chinese officials have launched an investigation into the dumping of 21 babies and foetuses by a hospital in north-eastern Shandong province, in a case which has ignited debate here over a social practice that modern China has sought to forget.

The deaths of the babies were attributed to abortions, induced labour and natural causes, State media reported. Two officials at a local hospital were on Wednesday arrested in connection with the incident.

Officials said the families of the babies had paid the hospital to dispose of the bodies, but they were instead dumped in a river.

While it had not been possible to identify the sex and age of the babies, sociologists here said the incident reflected an “outdated” practice that was once prevalent in poorer, rural areas in China, related to the high death-rate of babies in the past because of poor health-care and female infanticide.

“A modern society that respects life cannot allow this type of abandonment anymore,” Ma Guanghai, deputy dean at Shandong University's School of Philosophy and Social Development told State-run Xinhua news agency.

In a similar case in Hubei province in June, eight bodies, six of who were babies, were found dumped in a construction site.

Preference

A traditional preference for sons, coupled with the one-child policy, has led to a rise in sex-selective abortions in China. The country has the most skewed sex-ratios anywhere in the world. According to a report released last month by the United Nations Development Programme, there are 122.9 boys to every 100 girls at birth in rural China, a ratio far higher than the global average.