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Chinese court gives doctor suspended death sentence for selling newborns

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BEIJING, China - A Chinese court on Tuesday convicted a doctor of baby trafficking and sentenced her to death with a two-year reprieve, after she admitted in court that she stole babies from the hospital where she worked and sold them.

Zhang Shuxia, an obstetrician, told parents their newborns had congenital problems and persuaded them to give them up, according to the Weinan Intermediate People's Court in Shaanxi.

In China, suspended death sentences are usually commuted to life imprisonment after two years.

The case exposed a baby trafficking ring that operated across several provinces centring on Zhang. According to online postings by the court, she sold the babies to human traffickers, who then resold them at higher prices. In a July case, Zhang pocketed 21,600 yuan ($3,600) when she passed a baby boy to a human trafficker, who resold the child for 59,800 yuan ($9,900) to a couple in central China's Henan province.

Altogether, Zhang sold seven babies to middlemen who resold the babies in central and eastern China between November 2011 and July 2013, the court said. Six of the babies were either returned or rescued by police, but one that was voluntarily abandoned by its parents and sold for 1,000 yuan ($165) in April later died.

Zhang worked in Fuping county in the northwestern province of Shaanxi.

Child trafficking is a big problem in China, despite severe legal punishments including the death penalty. Families who buy trafficked children are driven partly by the traditional preference for male heirs, a strict one-child policy and ignorance of the law.

The case has added to public frustration with China's medical profession over rampant bribery and other abuses.

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