Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan arrested 32 people accused of being involved in child abductions for the purpose of trafficking.
Local authorities are now searching for the parents of 11 infants rescued from the baby trafficking ring. For this purpose, police released pictures of the babies to local media with the hope of tracing their families.
Police said that many of the traffickers were related to each other; others were close friends or came from the same town in Yunnan.
Media reports indicate the ring sold 21 children in total, some to buyers in other provinces such as Shandong, Fujian and Henan.
It is not clear whether all the children were sold by their families or abducted. What is certain is that some birth parents were paid up to 10,000 yuan (US$ 1,600), and that traffickers resold the babies for at least 10 times that price, up to 140,000 yuan each.
Police became suspicions in August of last year when officers came across a middle-aged couple with non-local accents preparing to board a train at Kunming with an infant who appeared to be only a few weeks old. After questioning, the couple admitted to buying the baby from traffickers.
Police later uncovered a network buying babies from remote villages and transporting them to willing city buyers.
The Yunnan case is not an isolated one but is part of a persistent problem. Critics say the country's one-child policy and lax adoption laws as well as poverty and preference for boys have fuelled demand for babies.
People buy stolen children as cheap labour, domestic workers, or, in the case of girls, brides for unmarried sons. In many other cases, children are sold to families who want to adopt, or forced into prostitution.
According to a report released by China National Radio, some 200,000 children disappear every year, and only 0.1 per cent is eventually found and freed from traffickers.