HONG KONG—Police in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian have arrested 110 suspected members of a baby-trafficking gang and rescued more than 50 babies, in the latest hint that the problem may be more widespread than authorities can handle.
The babies are sold for as much as 18,000 yuan (U.S.$2,180 dollars) to couples not permitted to give birth to another child under China's one-child policy.
Fugitive Lin Shiliu was arrested in Changting County, Fujian, and 53 baby boys were rescued during the same operation, official media reported.
As well as the 110 suspects now behind bars, four remained at large, and five had escaped from detention, Xinhua news agency said.
The gang was thought to have bought baby boys at prices ranging from 2,000-4,000 yuan (U.S.$240-480) in the southwest province of Yunnan, and hired 10 women from the area to bring the baby boys to Changting, it said.
In Fujian, the babies were sold for as much as 18,000 yuan (U.S.$2,180 dollars) to couples not permitted to give birth to another child under stringent family planning restrictions.
Police departments from Yunnan's Yanjin county and Changting had cooperated for the last six months in preparation for the raid, Xinhua said.
The case is just the latest in a series of raids on China's thriving black market in babies. Under the country's one-child policy, couples are fined and often suffer official abuse in the form of house demolitions and forced abortions if they give birth to more than the permitted number of children, which is usually one or two.
Children who are registered as adopted aren't regarded as being in breach of regulations because they don't add to the existing population of 1.3 billion.
Girls are also sold by poor families as servants, brides, or prostitutes, carrying on an age-old tradition that was thought to have ended with the advent of communist rule in 1949.
In July, a court in the central city of Puyang executed a gang leader convicted of selling more than 200 baby girls.
Li Guoju was put to death for his involvement in a highly publicized incident in March 2003 in which 28 baby girls, none older than three months, were found in nylon tote bags on a long-distance bus.
United Nations agencies estimate that 30 million women and children have been trafficked over the last 30 years in Asia alone, mostly for sexual exploitation.
In 1997, China's Public Security Bureau reported 6,000 cases of trafficked children.