Trafficked babies need parental love
A couple in Guangdong Province wept for joy at finding their 3-year-old son. A father in Guizhou Province shed tears of despair as his son remains missing.
Nearly a year has passed since railway police rescued the first of 34 trafficked children in Central China's Henan Province.
Song Jiuling, whose parents are migrant workers in Dongguan of South China's Guangdong Province, was playing on the street in January when a trafficker lured him away with candy.
Jiuling was sold seven times before his final adoptive parents, both local civil servants in Huixian County of Xinxiang city, bought him for 19,000 yuan (US$2,300).
According to Feng Xingfu, director of the railway police in Xinxiang, the people who sold him brainwashed him with abuse and lies that his parents abandoned him after they divorced.
So, the boy didn't recognize his real parents after Dongguan police asked them to come to Xinxiang in May to see if the boy was theirs.
Most children were kidnapped from southern or south-western China.
The human trafficking network was first uncovered when the railway police saw a couple they say were carrying a stolen baby on a train last August, Feng said.
Since then, police have arrested 20 suspects in the network, allegedly headed by Guo Shixian, who was caught in February. Feng said more than 70 people are involved in the scheme in various provinces.
Feng said Guo, 50, who has a prison record, began to sell babies in 1997. He and his accomplices sold boys for 15,000 to 20,000 yuan (US$1,800 to 2,400) each and girls for 5,000 to 9,000 yuan (US$600 to $1,090) each. Their profit averaged 3,000 yuan (US$360) per deal, Feng said.
In his village he became nouveau riche, buying a two-floor apartment building, with modern home appliances and expensive antiques, police said.
Once caught, Guo admitted he sold children, police said, but has never said how many. Sometimes a travel bag carried three infants, Feng said.
Even after the rescues, police have had difficulty finding the natural parents, primarily because the babies, mostly aged under 2, cannot recognize or identify their birthplaces.
Worse, many were found in poor health because the traffickers gave sleeping pills to the children to keep them quiet during transport, said Li Baoxue, deputy director of the Xinxiang welfare home, which provides a 40-square-metre room with a small bed for each baby.
"They suffered various illnesses ranging from respiratory infection and indigestion to skin disease," Li said.
The misfortune of the trafficked babies drew nationwide attention. Thousands of parents whose beloved children were kidnapped or stolen sent mail or hopefully called the welfare home.
Zhang Ende, a 40-year-old farmer in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, saw televised pictures of the babies and thought he might have recognized his son.
But after a 30-hour train ride to Xinxiang, he found he was mistaken. Tears streamed from Zhang's eyes. He said he would keep looking, according to Li.
As the police keep searching for the babies' parents, numerous people have requested to adopt the children, but police must first conclude they cannot find their parents.
"It is heartbreaking to see these babies parentless," Li said. "It is better for them to be adopted."