Hong Kong's deputies to the national legislature have mounted a rare united stance to push for tougher laws against trafficking in women and children.
The 36 local deputies to the National People's Congress tabled an amendment that would raise the penalty for buyers of children to 10 years in jail.
The amendment, first raised by deputy Wong Ting-chung in 2013, seeks to amend article 241 of the Chinese Criminal Law. That article spells out penalties for sellers but leaves buyers largely immune.
"The related departments will have to look into the problem and give us a reply within 90 days," Wong, a first-time NPC deputy, said on Monday. "We want to synchronise the sanctions for sellers and buyers to suppress the market."
It was the first time in 20 years that Hong Kong's deputies had stood united on an issue.
The last time a motion was successfully tabled by the deputies was in 1994. That was when Cheng Yiu-tong and 31 Hong Kong and Guangdong deputies tabled a proposal touching on Hong Kong's last Legislative Council.
Concern about the trafficking of children has grown. It is estimated that about 200,000 children go missing on the mainland every year.
Under current law, buyers are immune from criminal sanction if they have not abused the abducted children, barred trafficked women from returning to their homes or hindered rescue efforts.
The amendment required "great preciseness of wording", Wong said. It was drafted by an eight-member group.
All delegates to the NPC can make suggestions. They do not become formal proposals unless 30 votes are secured in the case of individual motions. Eighteen votes are required for motions raised in the name of Hong Kong deputies as a group.