In the eastern Chinese city of Weifang, there was a company, seemingly above board, that was advertising itself as a reproductive health business. The paperwork was in order, it had a storefront and looked like any other business. The entire enterprise, it turned out, was a front for a group of middlemen that were connecting people desperate to have a baby with women who were pregnant or had just given birth. They were, to put it simply, facilitating the buying and selling of babies . After a report was published by The Paper on Monday, police in Weifang, in Shandong province, detained the head of the company, surnamed Zhu, and accused her of human trafficking and running an illegal surrogacy company . It is unclear how many transactions were completed, but Zhu told police she had discussions with between 20-30 potential customers per year, according to The Paper. The investigation, a partnership between the Shanghai-based news outlet and an anti-trafficking advocate named Shangguan Zhengyi, had approached the police on July 30 with proof that Zhu’s claim of “facilitation adoptions” was a front. The police said they opened an investigation on August 1, using evidence discovered in the sting. The report was published the next day and Zhu was arrested hours later. According to Shangguan, there is a cottage industry in China of companies that will charge people anywhere from tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of yuan (a few thousand US dollars to around 20,000 US dollars) to help them buy a newborn. In this case, Shangguan discovered a WeChat group of about 100 people that organised surrogacy and human trafficking efforts. He posed as someone hoping to get a baby and spent about a year in the group before he was contacted by Zhu. Shangguan said the group “moved around” WeChat to evade authorities, but every iteration generally contained the same people. According to the report, Zhu contacted Shangguan and said she had some surrogate clients that would be willing to sell a baby. In a complicated process outlined by The Paper, Shangguan was eventually driven to the hospital to meet his “new baby” and the post-partum nurse. Typically, a baby is given to the buyers after going through its confinement period, a month-long Chinese tradition that guides how a baby is raised immediately after birth. Once Zhu began to hand over the official paperwork, Shangguan revealed that he was taking part in a sting operation. He said, at that point, Zhu’s hands began to shake and she said she would turn herself in once she “got her home affairs in order”. Police took the initiative and detained her regardless. Surrogacy is illegal in China, but the case described by the report seemed to describe the act of buying and selling a baby, which led to accusations of human trafficking. High-profile child trafficking cases, specifically people who sell newborns to people desperate for children, crop up in China fairly regularly. In May, a man was accused of selling his two-year-old child for US$24,000 so he could go on a holiday. Last year, the mainland media company Sixth Tone found an underground “foster network” where people were openly selling their children for tens of thousands of dollars. That article inspired other sleuths, who found that similar companies existed on nearly all of China’s major social media networks. The article describes a similar business model to the one described in the report by The Paper.