A doctor has been sentenced to death, suspended for two years, for selling babies born at a hospital in northwest China's Shaanxi province.

Zhang Shuxia, a former obstetrician with Fuping County Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital, was sentenced on Tuesday for selling seven babies, one of whom later died, to human traffickers.

The penalty is normally commuted to life imprisonment.

Zhang obtained most of the newborns by telling their parents that they were sick or had died, before selling them to traffickers for prices reaching 47,000 yuan ($7,800), the court said.

The court found that Zhang had persuaded a mother to give up a pair of newborn female twins last year by saying that one had died of disease, while the other had injured arms and legs.

Another baby she sold was later found dead in a ditch, dumped by a trafficker, the court said.

Zhang had received 20,000 yuan ($3,310) each for several female babies, it added, while one male baby fetched 47,000 yuan ($7,800) in 2011.

Her actions came to light on July 20, 2013, when a mother surnamed Dong suspected her baby had been abducted and reported the incident to police.

The baby was found in good condition in neighbouring Henan Province on August 5, 2013 and Zhang was detained in August.

One-child policy

Her trial began on December 30 and was the focus of widespread media attention.

Some of the babies she abducted were later found by police and returned to their parents, the court said.

Tens of thousands of children are believed to be stolen each year in China.

Most are sold within the country to meet demand fuelled by a one-child limit and traditional preference for sons, while parents accuse apathetic police of failing to investigate.

Beijing recently said it would allow millions of families to have two children, the most radical relaxation of its strict one-child policy in close to three decades.

The new rules, which will roll out gradually around China, will allow couples in which just one parent is an only child to have a second baby, part of a plan to raise fertility rates and ease the financial burden of China's rapidly ageing population.

Source: Agencies