Police in China say they have “eliminated” two major child trafficking gangs, freeing 181 children and making 802 arrests.
By Tom Phillips, Shanghai
12:54PM BST 06 Jul 2012
In a statement released on Friday, security officials said 10,000 police operatives took part in a series of raids on addresses spread across 15 provinces.
One of the operations was launched after the high number of pregnant women visiting a health clinic in Hebei province aroused suspicions.
Police claimed the clinic was being used to arrange the sale of babies, a widespread practice in China partly as a result of rural poverty and the one-child policy.
Among those arrested was Guo Yanfang, a trained gynaecologist who ran a private clinic in Xingtai, Hebei province.
According to reports in the local media Mr Guo was a middleman who helped expectant mothers negotiate their unborn children in exchange for a cut of the deal. Mr Guo reportedly used a cigarette and wine shop as a front for his illegal activities.
Child smuggling is a major underground industry in China. No precise statistics exist but campaigners have claimed that tens of thousands of children are snatched or sold each year. Some are sold to families who have not been able to conceive or want more children than Chinese law permits.
Other victims are coerced into begging by organised criminal gangs.
According to the Chinese government over 8,000 children who were abducted or sold by their parents were freed in 2011.
Recent years have seen authorities step up their fight against trafficking in a series of key “battlefields”. Last December police hailed their “biggest victory yet” over traffickers, rescuing 178 children.
But speaking to the state-controlled Xinhua on Friday, one police officer, who declined to be named, admitted that while authorities had “stopped child trafficking from increasing the illegal practice was still prominent in some areas”. Following this week’s operation, police sources today told The Beijing Times the price of trafficked children was on the rise.
Baby girls now fetched up to £5,000 on the black-market while boys, often seen as more desirable because of China’s one-child policy, could command a fee of up to £8,000, the newspaper claimed.
The risks are also high: trafficking children carries the death sentence in China.
In November 2009 two men were executed after being convicted of abducting and selling 15 children. Many of the children were snatched in broad daylight and subsequently sold.
Speaking to the China Daily earlier this year Jiang Yue, a professor from Xiamen University’s law school, said: “The main reason for human trafficking is the economic gap and some residents in poor areas even think such trafficking is a way to earn money.”