Police rescue 37 babies 'fed on noodles and leftovers' in China child trafficking crackdown
Police in China rescued 37 babies and a three-year-old girl and arrested 103 suspected child traffickers in a massive operation to crack down on the trade in children, China Central Television has reported.
Newborn babies – reportedly fed on instant noodles and leftover vegetables by the traffickers – were sold, with boys attracting prices of between 50,000 yuan (about HK$63,000) and 80,000 yuan.
Baby girls – not so prized in Chinese society – attracted lower prices, police said.
Chen Shiqu, director of the Ministry of Public Security's Anti-trafficking Office, told CCTV that it was a relatively a new form of crime, with smugglers arranging for pregnant women to give birth in an abandoned factory in Jining, south of Shandong, and then sell their children.
The traffickers, working in the Shandong regions of Taian, Linyi, Qufu and Jining, reportedly recruited pregnant women willing to sell their babies, and arranged for them to live in the abandoned factory.
After giving birth, the women did not nurse their children; they left the factory after handing over their babies to the traffickers, the CCTV programme said on Monday.
The children were transported – hidden in handbags or other luggage – to a morgue at a hospital for infectious diseases, in the suburbs of Jining, where they were kept until buyers were found.
“The infants were abused,” Hou Jun, a Jinan detective, told CCTV.
“The traffickers fed them with instant noodles or some left-over vegetables while waiting for buyers.”
A raid by Jinan and Jining police on the morgue revealed many babies in poor health, with some suffering bedsores because of the poor level of care, the report said.
A three-year-old, given to traffickers to sell by relatives, was also rescued by police.
One policeman told the CCTV programme that one of the rescued babies had almost been smothered to death by traffickers after they hid it beneath thick bed covers.
The TV report – which did not make it clear when the raid took place, or if the traffickers were working as part of an organised gang – said mothers that sold their babies were among the 103 people detained by police.
The traffickers have been found guilty of offences linked to child trafficking and are now awaiting sentencing.
Pia MacRae, country director of Save the Children, China, told the South China Morning Post: “Poverty is an underlying cause of trafficking. Typically trafficking routes are from poor, remote areas to more developed, affluent regions.”
The British NGO, which has run an anti-child trafficking programme in Yunnan focusing on trafficking prevention, said that in many cases children were trafficked for labour exploitation.
Also some children, typically young boys, were being trafficked and sold to families that have no child or only a girl.
MacRae said China had launched its second Action Plan against Human Trafficking (2012-2020), which had broadened its focus to include more prevention and support of victims and their families.
However, few countries, including China publish national estimates of trafficking.
According to China’s criminal laws, child traffickers can be jailed for at least five years.
Traffickers who sell more than three children aged less than 14 years old can face sentences of more than 10 years in jail, or even the death penalty.
This raid was not the first time that child traffickers have been arrested in Shandong.
In 2012, a gang of seven criminals, including doctors and traffickers, sold six babies through a local hospital in Linyi, the Legal Daily reported at the time.
The gang was caught after a couple, who regretted selling their new-born baby, tipped off the local police.
After conviction, the seven gang members were jailed for between six and 13 years.