Kids go home as China cracks trafficking ring

( Reuters ) - Nine kidnapped children were returned to their parents in central China on Thursday in a rare success story in a nation where population controls have led to rampant child-trafficking, state media reported on Thursday.

Police detained 10 suspects after the abduction of nine children in Henan province early last month.

The gang was led by Ye Zengxi, his son, daughter-in-law, and his brother. The gang used Ye's 12-year-old nephew to lure the nine boys, aged between two and eight, away from their parents' view with toys or food, and then whisked them away by motorbike, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Child-trafficking is rampant in China, where population control policies have bolstered a traditional bias for male offspring, seen as the mainstay for elderly parents and heir to the family name, and have resulted in abortions, killings or abandonment of girls.

About 119 boys are born for every 100 girls, an imbalance that has grown since China introduced the one-child policy more than 25 years ago.

The imbalance has created criminal demand for abducted or bought baby boys, but also for baby girls destined to be future brides attracting rich dowries.

Ma Xuemin, director of the Nanyang Bureau of Public Security and commander-in-chief of the abduction case, told Xinhua that none of the boys had been mistreated.

"Each kid was sold for 20,000 yuan ($2,700)," Xinhua quoted Sun Zhouli, a police officer on the case, as saying.

Per capita income in China's urban areas is roughly $1,900 a year, and about $600 a year in rural areas.

When Lu Fujin, a father of two of the abducted children, finally held his two-year-old in his arms, "the boy tried to keep at arm's length, seeming a bit aloof after being away for nearly one month," the agency added.

The Ministry of Public Security recorded 2,500 cases of trafficking in China in 2006, but that figure only includes resolved cases, rather than those reported, and fails to make clear whether "cases" involve individuals or rings.

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