Chinese police have arrested more than 1,000 people for trafficking babies on the internet, the Ministry of Public Security announced yesterday.
The authorities rescued 382 infants from trafficking operations in 27 cities and also smashed four baby-smuggling rings, a statement on the ministry's website said.
The crackdown on February 19 was launched after police in Beijing and Jiangsu received a tip-off last year that the suspects were engaged in child trafficking by running a website that promoted baby adoption.
Further inquiries showed the suspects operated four such websites, and used various tools on the internet, such as an instant messaging platform and online bulletin boards, to communicate with potential buyers.
A total of 1,094 suspects were arrested, the ministry said.
One of the suspects, Zhou Daifu, said he had paid up to 3,000 yuan (HK$3,774) to another suspect for procuring government registration certificates for the smuggled babies, reported People's Daily. Zhou would then resell the certificates, it said.
He would also require both the seller and buyer of the registration certificates to make a "donation", which usually cost up to 6 per cent of the transaction amount, to his websites.
Zhou even planned to provide surrogacy and foster care services, said the report.
Liu Ancheng, deputy director of the security ministry's criminal investigation bureau, said: "The criminals build up their platforms through the internet, and engage in trafficking activities under the veil of baby adoption. They are operating in secrecy.
"They have no boundaries and their networks are spreading across the whole nation."
A civil servant from Kaifeng , Henan province, started to post on the website late last year in search of a healthy baby girl. He said he was aware of the risks, but had no choice.
He had tried the local welfare centres, but was told most of the baby girls there were disabled.
"I have to be extremely cautious, and if I decide to adopt, I will have someone check more details of the family," he said.
The man said he would never buy babies, but added he "would probably be willing to pay a certain amount as compensation to the birth family for their efforts in bringing up the baby".
Baby trafficking has emerged as a serious social problem. Last month, a Shaanxi doctor was found guilty of selling babies from her hospital for as little as 1,000 yuan.
In Shandong province, two traffickers used online platforms to lure young women who had unplanned pregnancies to give up their babies.
They had sold 10 babies in the last three years, earning more than 500,000 yuan, reports said.