An elderly Chinese man sleeps on a sidewalk in central Beijing on August 1, 2010. A third of China's population falls into the category of extremely poor, according to the United Nations. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo
BEIJING, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Smuggling of women and children from neighboring nations into China is increasing despite efforts to fight human trafficking, a senior police official said.
Chen Shiqu, head of the Chinese government agency dealing with the problem, said cross-border human traffickers remain a serious scourge and called for greater international cooperation to stop them, China Daily reported Friday.
Most of the victims are from Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos, he said.
"Great demand from buyers as well as traditional preference for boys [in Chinese families] are the main culprits fueling trafficking," Chen told China Daily.
Chen said 1,500 cross-border cases involving about 2,000 kidnapped women and infants have been handled since 2009.
Some of the rescued women were sold as brides in Yunnan and Guangdong provinces and others were put into prostitution in border areas of Yunnan and the Guangxi Zhuang. Many rescued children had been trafficked in Guangdong and Guangxi for illegal adoption, with boys fetching as much as $6,000 and girls much less.
The traffickers, many of them women, are immigrants living illegally in China in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces..
"The female suspects tend to be more discreet," Chen said, explaining that they collude with local agencies.
Recent measures to fight the problem have included the Mekong River Sub-Regional Cooperation agreement against trafficking among China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, under which China has established eight border offices.
But Chen said cultural, linguistic differences and differing legal systems dealing with evidence-collection have hampered the efforts.
Li Guifang, deputy director of the criminal defense committee at the All China Lawyers Association, called for harsher penalties for convicted traffickers.