After more than three years in hiding, self-confessed child-trafficker Wu Zhenglian is facing justice following her arrest in Henan last month.
Wu, 26, a mother of two with a dark complexion and rustic Yunnan accent, has admitted being a key member of a baby-trafficking gang that shipped nine children from Yunnan to other provinces, newspapers in Yunnan reported.
At her initial hearing, Wu said she and her husband had sold eight baby girls and one baby boy.
Police investigating the gang seized more than 70,000 yuan (HK$85,000) believed to be the proceeds of crime. Most of the children were sold to middlemen in Guangdong and Fujian , police told Shenghuo Xinbao.
Police caught Wu on November 7 in Guozhuang village, in the remote mountains of Henan's Tongbo county, more than three years after her first arrest, Henan's Zhengzhou Evening News reported. She had remarried and changed her name to Xiong Zhongxian .
The Ministry of Public Security put Wu on its most-wanted list in 2009, and police posted a reward of 50,000 yuan for information leading to her arrest.
On November 6, police in Nanyang received a tip that Wu was hiding near the city's Huilong township, the Zhengzhou Evening News reported. They walked to Huilong in torrential rain that night and confirmed that Xiong was Wu before capturing her the next morning.
More than three years earlier, in August 2008, Wu had been arrested in her hometown in Guangnan county, Wenshan, Yunnan. She escaped during the spring festival holidays in 2009 after police put her under house arrest because she was breastfeeding her daughter, the Chuncheng Evening News, based in Yunnan's capital, Kunming, reported.
She left her two-year-old son with her mother-in-law and fled with her daughter, one of Wu's neighbours told the newspaper.
Wu's neighbours in Jiabo village, Guangnan county, told the Zhengzhou Evening News that she started trafficking babies after marrying Hou Xihong at the age of 18 and moving to his home in Luoshuidong village, about 40 kilometres away.
Several households in Luoshuidong and nearby villages engaged in baby trafficking, Yunnan police told the Chuncheng Evening News. It was the main source of income for Hou's extended family, with his brother and one of his two sisters also involved. The other sister was blind.
Nong Xunzhen, deputy chief of Guangnan county's Public Security Bureau, said the gang Wu joined included her husband, his two siblings, two neighbours and a man from Guangxi. Hou's father, brother-in-law and the two brothers of his sister-in-law were also arrested for child trafficking in 2009, Shenghuo Xinbao reported.
Hou was the head of the gang, responsible for negotiating with sellers, Nong told the Chuncheng Evening News. Wu was in charge of finding babies, transportation and taking care of the children on the way to buyers, he said.
Nong said it all began in the first half of 2007, when Hou and his brother-in-law bought a baby girl for 1,500 yuan from a nearby county. Hou and Wu then took the baby to Liangtong township, in Huazhou, Guangdong, and sold her to a man named Nong Rongli , who traded her to someone else. The couple earned 3,000 yuan, the Chuncheng Evening News quoted police as saying.
Nong Rongli later became the couple's biggest buyer, and many children passed through his hands, it said.
Most of the babies they bought were first taken to Guangxi and then to Guangdong and Fujian, where buyers were found. Some were first taken to Kunming, and then to Guizhou before being sold, Lu Changao, deputy director of Guangnan county's Yangliujing township police station, told Shenghuo Xinbao.
The gang eventually decided to focus on baby boys, believing they could fetch more money. In 2008, Hou bought a baby boy from one of his accomplices for 19,000 yuan and gave the boy to Wu, who took him to Zhanjiang in Guangdong and sold him for 22,000 yuan.
When Hou was arrested in 2009, he denied stealing the babies, the Dahe Daily reported. He was jailed for life for child trafficking; the sentence was later reduced to 15 years.
Lu told Shenghuo Xinbao that extreme poverty and high profits were the driving factors of baby trafficking in Yangliujing. 'There were 49 cases of children being sold between 2009 and this year in Yangliujing township,' he said. 'The majority of the cases involved parents selling their own children.'
Some families had too many children and could not afford them, while others had to give them up because of family-planning restrictions, the Dahe Daily quoted several villagers as saying. The profits from child trafficking far exceeded those from farming, Shenghuo Xinbao reported.
'Some people sold their children as goods,' Lu told the newspaper. 'The police station didn't receive any reports from the families. When we asked about it, they said the mother had a miscarriage.'
The amount, in yuan, traffickers can get for a baby boy, after being purchased in Yunnan for 20,000 yuan, Shenghuo Xinbao reports