Police across China have rescued 23 children in a nationwide crackdown on child trafficking from poor provinces, state media said.
The Wuhan Rail Bureau in central China has also netted 18 suspects in an 8-day campaign targeting trains pulling in from the city of Kunming, the capital of impoverished Yunnan province in southeast China, the Xinhua news agency said.
Other children, ranging in age from 100 days to 8 years, from the poor, coal-mining province of Shanxi, have been found in Shandong province on the prosperous coast. They were taken hundreds of miles in buses by smuggling rings that used poor migrants to accompany the children.
Many are now in orphanages, since their parents have not been found, Central China Television said in a report on the campaign. Chinese babies, especially boys, from poor and remote areas may be sold to more prosperous people in far-away provinces. Some older children are also sold to gangs who train them to beg in bigger, richer cities.
A child may be sold for anywhere from 7,000 yuan to 40,000 yuan ($1,000-$5,850), depending on the age and sex, the Xinhua report said. Police in Shanxi said parents struggling to make ends meet might sell their newborns. Chinese parents also face fines if they have more than the number of children allowed under China's population controls.
Women traveling with a small child and lots of milk powder but little in the way of children's clothing or other items are potential traffickers, the report said. The cheap and crowded train system allows them to bring the children long distances without being noticed.
Women and girls from the poor countryside are also potential victims of kidnapping and trafficking.
They are sold to poor men who can't get wives in equally remote villages in other parts of China, where differences in language make it difficult for them to escape.
Adapted from: Lucy Hornby and Alex Richardson, "China police rescue trafficked children," The Washington Post, 21 June 2009.
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