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China's 21 dead babies: What happened?
The grisly discovery of bags of dead babies on the banks of a Chinese river raises many questions. Here's what known about the puzzling tragedy
China's Shandong province, where the bodies of 21 babies were discovered.
China's Shandong province, where the bodies of 21 babies were discovered.
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esidents of Jining, a city of 8 million in China's eastern Shandong province, found the bodies of 21 babies on the banks of the Guangfu river Sunday and Monday. Here's a concise guide to the gruesome discovery:

Where did the babies come from?
At least eight had toe tags from Affiliated Hospital of Jining Medical College, and probably all 21 came from there. Two hospital workers, Zhu Zhenyu and Wang Zhijun, were arrested for dumping the bodies. The hospital's director and deputy director were also fired over the incident, and a vice president suspended. 

How were they discovered?
Local residents and firefighters found the bodies, some in yellow bags labeled "Medical Waste," under a bridge on the Ganfu river. One man said he thought the bodies were dolls at first.

How did the babies die?
The infants, ranging from newborns to babies several months old, likely died of illness. The official Xinhua News Agency said some of the bodies were fetuses, presumably meaning they were aborted. People's Daily says all the bodies were of full-term babies.

Why weren't the bodies buried or cremated?
Officials say the families of the dead infants paid the two arrested mortuary workers to properly dispose of the bodies, but they instead dumped them in the river or only partially buried them near it. It's not uncommon for Chinese infants who die of disease to be unceremoniously disposed of, since they are too young to be formally considered part of the family. The dead infants should have been cremated, but it's unclear if it is illegal to dump the bodies.

Is dumping bodies common?
It isn't unheard of. Last June, two adult bodies and six fetuses from a hospital in Central China's Hubei province were discovered at a nearby construction site. Chinese hospitals reportedly have problems with unclaimed bodies filling up their morgues. 

What was the girl-to-boy ratio?
It wasn't reported. China's one-child policy has led to a skewed birth rate — 119 boys born per 100 girls, versus a 107-100 ratio in most industrialized nations — as some Chinese practice (illegal) gender-selection abortions to ensure they have a son. But there's no evidence that was involved in this case.

What happened to the bodies?
They have been cremated.

How are the Chinese reacting to the grizzly find?
They are outraged. Angry denouncements of the hospital and morgue workers are all over Chinese-language news sites, and in an unusual emotional outburst, a Chinese TV news anchor opined: "These infants never had a chance to walk on this earth and that is already their tragedy. But shouldn’t you then dispose of them properly instead of just tossing them out? These people have the hearts of dogs. They are hateful and contemptible.

Sources: AP, China Daily, Japan Today, BBC News, London Times, Reuters

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