KUNMING, China, May 31 (UPI) -- The abduction of girls is on the rise in China, government officials acknowledge.
The Sunday Times of London reported that while young boys had long been targeted by kidnappers, the country's one-baby policy has led to a shortage of females and gangs are exploiting the demand for girls.
The Public Security Ministry puts the number of abductions of girls and young women at between 2,000 and 3,000 annually but newspaper reports in the country have said the number could be as high as 20,000, The Times said.
"More children are being kidnapped by criminal gangs," said Yuan Xiaoyin, a ministry official in Yunnan.
The problem has spawned a Web site where Chinese parents can post details of their missing children. About 2,000 couples have posted information about their missing children, the British newspaper said. About 400 children have registered there, as well, looking for their parents.
Happy outcomes have been rare, with the Internet site reporting seven reunions in two years.
The Public Security Ministry is vowing to do more to stem the trend. It has issued a list of the 10 most-wanted human traffickers and has started a national DNA database to help identify missing children.
Police rescued 51 girls from kidnappers in the past month, official media have reported.