In July authorities in southern China rescued 89 trafficked minors, including one as young as 10 days old. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters
Police in eastern China have shut down a human trafficking ring involving low-income migrant couples who were selling their babies, a state-run newspaper has reported.
Police in Zoucheng, Shandong province, found last month that 17 infants had been sold in the city to Chinese buyers, according to the Global Times newspaper. Police rescued 13 babies and sent them to welfare centres and a search was under way for the other four, the paper said.
The report cited an investigating police officer as saying the couples were mainly migrants who had moved from poorer areas in Sichuan province in south-west China to Zoucheng to seek work.
It quoted the officer, Chen Qingwei, as saying the husbands would go out to work while their wives sold their babies to raise money.
There was no immediate comment from police in Zoucheng.
One couple had sold three children, the newspaper said.
Chen said baby boys could be sold for up to 50,000 yuan (£4,900), while the price for girls was 30,000 yuan, much more than the parents could earn from farming.
There is a thriving underground market in children in China – mostly involving buyers who either want more children or want them as slave labour – that endures despite harsh penalties for traffickers, including death. The country's one-child policy limits most urban couples to a single child and rural families to two.
In July authorities in southern China rescued 89 trafficked minors, including one as young as 10 days old, and arrested 369 suspects after uncovering two child trafficking gangs.