A Chinese doctor told officials on Monday that she is guilty of kidnapping seven infants and selling them to human traffickers for personal financial gain.
In front of a courtroom in Shaanxi province, former obstetrician Zhang Shuxia admitted to illegally obtaining and selling the babies, reports the BBC.
Zhang, who worked in Shaanxi's Fuping Maternal and Child Healthcare Hospital, sold the children between November 2011 and July 2013, per the BBC.
On multiple occasions, Zhang tricked couples into giving up their babies by pretending the children had serious health problems or disabilities and might not live, reports The Wall Street Journal. While six of the abducted children were eventually returned to their families, one baby girl died.
Over the course of two years, Zhang made at least 59,600 yuan (around $9,834) from her scheme, according to Chinese news site SINA.
“I feel guilty. I am sorry to newborns’ parents and my family as well,” a clearly emotional Zhang told the court, according to SINA. “For economic interests, I sold babies who were given up by their parents to others. I would like to accept the law’s punishment.”
The trafficking ring came to light over the summer, after Zhang attempted to sell a boy born in July, reports ABC News. While the child's parents initially believed Zhang's claims that their son was seriously ill and gave him to Zhang so she could care for him, they later grew suspicious and alerted police. The child, who had been sold and resold to middlemen in the meantime, was recovered unharmed in August in a village in Henan province, according to ABC.
Zhang's case has received widespread media attention in China, where child trafficking, especially of male babies, is a big business, according to the Telegraph.
Zhang could face the death penalty for her role in this particular trafficking ring, but some villagers allege that she committed many more kidnappings that were not investigated by authorities, per the Telegraph.
"After the media storm, the police and local government lost interest in finding the other children," one villager said, according to the Telegraph. "The local government is trying to play down and cover up the full story."