The central government outlined a new ban on Monday barring unauthorised individuals and groups from running private shelters for orphans in China.
“Adopting and handling abandoned infants at one's own [free] will is forbidden,” the joint circular, issued by seven government departments, said, adding that any orphans found would have to be reported to local residential committees or police in a timely manner.
The circular was issued by the ministries of justice, civil affairs and justice as well as the National Health and Family Planning Commission, among others.
People who intend to adopt a child going forward, will have to do so through “official channels and meet all necessary requirements”, the circular said. It urged police to make efforts to find the biological parents or other guardians of an abandoned infant.
According to the circular, if police fail to find an infant’s guardians, the child must be transferred to a government-licensed nursing home for temporary care. Those who use abandoned children for illegal and profitable ends will be “severely punished”, it added.
The announcement comes just weeks after police denied media reports which said nearly 200,000 children disappear in the country every year. The revelation sparked a debate about how children should be better protected from exploitation, harm and a booming child-trafficking industry.
There are also an estimated 58 million “left-behind children” in China - a term used to describe the phenomenon where millions of minors are left in rural areas by parents flocking to urban centres for work.