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The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"The new figure may be only the tip of the iceberg"
 real 28k

Saturday, 16 September, 2000, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
China's kidnap victims freed
Woman in a rice field
Women are often sold into marriage in rural areas
Chinese police have rescued more than 100,000 kidnapped women and children during a major campaign against human trafficking, according to state media.

The campaign was launched in April, with police using new DNA techniques and databases to track down missing people.

Human trafficking is widespread, especially in rural areas, with most abducted women sold for marriage or prostitution, and the children bought by childless couples.

The government has said a campaign against human trafficking will be one of its priorities this year.

The China Daily newspaper said officers found about 110,000 women and 13,000 children who had been abducted from their homes.

Social pressures

Police cracked one kidnap gang operating in the city of Zunyi in the south-western Guizhou province which had kidnapped and sexually abused 84 women and children.

Kidnappers usually operate in destitute areas in the interior of China.

Mother and child
Families are desperate for male babies
Sons are highly prized in Chinese culture and infertile couples, or those with only a female child, are willing to pay large sums of money for a male child to carry on the family line.

The government's family planning policies, which limits the number of children a couple can have, have resulted in an imbalance between males and females.

There is a shortage of women for marriage, and in rural areas many men cannot afford to pay the traditional dowry.

Modern techniques

The China Daily said the police have employed modern technology in the fight against kidnappers.

DNA samples are being used to match women and children with their families.

Police have also established a nationwide database of traffickers and abductees.

Last year police rescued just 7,700 women and 1,800 children.

Although the numbers recovered have increased dramatically as a result of the crackdown the problem is unlikely to disappear.

The incentives for kidnappers will remain huge unless social policies and traditional attitudes are changed.

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See also:

30 Jun 00 | Europe
Chinese trafficking gang busted
11 Sep 00 | UK
Police identify Dover dead
01 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China targets kidnappers
28 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests prostitution gang
07 Jan 99 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese men face life as bachelors
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese gangs' cruel trade
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