According to China’s Ministry of Public Security, 181 trafficked children have been rescued in countrywide police busts.
Operations in 15 different provinces also led to the arrests of 802 suspected child traffickers, including the leaders of two rings.
A strong, deeply-ingrained cultural preference for boys in combination with China’s One Child Policy has allowed trafficking in babies and children to thrive. The One Child Policy limits couples to one child, or two if the first child is a girl born to rural parents.
Babies may be kidnapped from their homes or sold by parents to traffickers. This and female infanticide have been observed in China, given gender discrimination and the hefty fines that come along with violating the policy.
The controversial policy is designed as a family planning tool to help limit population overgrowth, as China is the world’s most populous country. Critics, however, have voiced concern over gender issues, including an imbalanced sex ratio where males outnumber females more than usual.
Law enforcers were first tipped off to the trafficking rings busted when pregnant women from outside local communities in the northern Hebei province began to appear. The expecting mothers seemed to be visiting a clinic that matched baby buyers with baby sellers.
State-run media reports that a baby girl can be sold for as much as $8,000 or as little as $4,800. Baby boys fetch almost triple the lowest price a girl fetches.
Last year, 8,000 trafficked children in China were rescued. Reports have also shown that traffickers from more than 3,000 trafficking rings were arrested, too. Harsh punishment, even death sentences, may be levied against child traffickers. One police officer told the China Daily that the country will continue implementing a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to child trafficking.
Globally, about 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, says the International Labour Organization (ILO).
In addition to China’s national laws, international treaties outlaw child and human trafficking. Included in this legal framework is the United Nations (UN) Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. This protocol is attached to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the ILO’s Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour also call on countries to protect children from trafficking.