Yuan Xinquan was holding his baby daughter at a bus stop when a handful of men leapt out of a government van, and demanded he present his marriage license or pay a $745 fine. When he could do neither, they confiscated the baby. “They are pirates,” he says. For years, that kind of thing was common in Longhui County, the New York Times reports, offering harrowing accounts of babies stolen for the profitable black market in children, and parents beaten and punished for complaining.
The abuses ended in 2006 after an 8-month-old fell from a second floor balcony while officials were wrestling him from his mother. But they only came to light this May, thanks to a report from a Chinese magazine. The government promised an investigation, but locals tell the Times that authorities are punishing anyone who speaks up. One man who was detained for 15 days says he’s still looking for his stolen girl. “This is not a chicken. This is not a dog. This is my child,” he says.