File photo of a torn “Missing Child” poster. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
(AP) -- A national operation in China has busted nine child abduction gangs, arresting 355 suspects and rescuing 89 children.
China's Ministry of Public Security said Monday that it conducted the nine-province operation in December after receiving reports of child abductions from southern China's Fujian and Yunnan provinces.
The ministry said the child trafficking activities spanned several provinces and that the suspects bought abducted children in provinces including Yunnan and Sichuan and transported them to other provinces, where they were sold for huge profits.
The official Xinhua News Agency said that in one case, a 1-month-old baby boy from Yunnan province was sold for 62,800 yuan ($10,000) to a family in Fujian province. A baby boy could fetch as much as 90,000 yuan ($14,250), Xinhua said.
Despite severe legal punishments that include the death penalty, child trafficking is a big problem in China. The commerce is highly profitable for the traffickers, and the demand is strong, driven partly by the traditional preference for male heirs, a strict one-child policy and ignorance of the law.
Child buyers in China are not subject to criminal prosecution if they do not obstruct rescue efforts or mistreat the children, and legal experts are pushing for a law revision to make it a crime to buy abducted children, Xinhua reported.
In 2011, Chinese police rescued 8,660 abducted children.