Page last updated at 05:52 GMT, Tuesday, 27 October 2009

China parents lynch book salesman

Chinese child with teddy, flag
China's parents harbour violent fears for their few children's safety

A mob of parents have killed a book salesman and badly injured four of his colleagues after rumours spread that the men were a human smuggling ring.

China's official Xinhua news agency said the attack, at a primary school, occurred while the group handed out leaflets about a lecture.

As gossip spread that a gang was trying to ensnare the young pupils, parents surrounded and set upon the men.

Child smuggling gangs have preyed on Chinese children for years.

Gang fears

The incident took place in the early morning at the Chumen Primary School in Yuhuan County in east China's Zhejiang Province.

The parents surrounded the five salesmen and attacked them, a police spokesman said.

The salesmen were later saved by police officers and sent to a local hospital where one of them died and four are still receiving treatment.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children go missing in China each year, seized by roving criminal gangs to serve as props for beggars or for sale to childless couples.

Estimates are difficult to come by, though the Ministry of Public Security reported investigating 2,566 potential trafficking cases last year.

Boys, particularly toddlers, can fetch 30,000 yuan ($6,100) on the black market. Girls fetch much less, around the equivalent of $500, according to media reports.

Child trafficking is seen as a growing problem in China, despite government attempts to crack down on it.

The problem is exacerbated by strict birth control policies, which limit many couples to only one child.

There have been several high profile cases of abducted children being rescued from mines and brick kilns - prompting a Chinese government campaign against slavery.

The authorities launched the country's first anti-trafficking programme in Yunnan province two years ago.

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