Bodies of 21 babies found in river in eastern China; believed to be dumped by hospital
BEIJING - The bodies of 21 babies, believed dumped by hospitals, have washed ashore on a riverbank in eastern China, state media reported Tuesday.
Video footage showed that the bodies -- stashed in yellow plastic bags, at least one of which was marked "medical waste" -- included some infants several months old. Some wore identification tags with their mothers' names, birth dates, measurements and weights. The official Xinhua News Agency said there were also fetuses among the bodies.
Residents discovered the remains under a bridge in the city of Jining, Shandong province, over the weekend. Tags on the feet of eight of the babies traced them back to a hospital in Jining, according to the People's Daily Web site. Three of them had been admitted earlier to the hospital in critical condition, the report said. It did not say when.
The other 13 bodies were unidentified. The number of girls or boys was not reported.
More girls than boys are aborted in China because of the traditional preference for male offspring, especially in rural areas. Although gender-selection abortions are illegal in China, the practice remains widespread and has led to a skewed sex ratio at birth in China with 119 males born for every 100 females. In industrialized countries, the ratio is 107 to 100.
An official from the general office from the Affiliated Hospital of Jining Medical College confirmed it was involved.
"Several of the bodies of babies with (identification) tags were from our hospital, but not all of them. The officials from the health bureau are still in the hospital doing an investigation," said the official, who like most Chinese officials would not give his name.
Xinhua said medical staff were suspended after the discovery.
"The hospital medical staff involved have been suspended from their work during the investigation," Zhong Haitao, a spokesman at the Jining Health Bureau, was quoted as saying.
Local residents and firefighters recovered the bodies Monday after they were discovered under a bridge spanning the Guangfu River in the outskirts of Jining, Zhong said.
Interviews with residents who discovered the bodies floating near the shore over the weekend were broadcast on the Web site of the Shandong Broadcasting Company, IQILU.com.
The footage shows bodies lying on parts of the bank of the river. Some are uncovered, and others are in bags. They are all small and covered in dirt. A leg sticks out from under one bag. At least one of the bags has "medical waste" written on it.
The IQILU.com report said the babies ranged from newborns to several months old. One of the bluish-green identification tags visible in the video indicates the baby was born in April 2009.
People's Daily said all the bodies were babies, while Xinhua said several were fetuses.
An official from the information office of China's Health Ministry said she was not aware of the case, while telephone calls to the Jining Health Bureau and the Shandong Health Bureau rang unanswered Tuesday.