They say two women were also freed in an operation involving police forces in 11 provinces of the country.
The traffickers are believed to have targeted children in the south-western Yunnan and Sichuan provinces and then sold them in other regions.
Child-trafficking has become a serious problem in China, correspondents say.
Critics blame the country’s one-child policy and lax adoption laws, which they say have created a thriving underground market for buying children.
Some families buy trafficked women and children to use as extra labour and household servants, as well as brides for unmarried sons.
Last year, more than 24,000 abducted women and children were freed in China, according to the public security ministry.
It said that some of those kidnapped had been sold for adoption or forced into prostitution.
Greater freedom of movement as a result of China’s economic reforms is thought to have made it easier for trafficking gangs to operate
Newborns among children held sedated and prepared for sale in mainland trafficking racket
Police have rescued 92 abducted children and held 301 suspects in connection with the bust of one of the biggest cross-country child-trafficking networks on the mainland in years.
The suspects are said to have sedated the children, many of whom were under the age of two, including some newborns, with sleeping pills to render them docile while they were transported to sellers.
Police in Henan province began to investigate the ring in March and started to detain people on September 11, state media reported on Friday, citing the Ministry of Public Security. Suspects have been held in 11 provinces.
Members are believed to have collected children in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces by either purchasing them or deceiving the parents. Deliverymen would take them to sellers elsewhere on the mainland in a highly organised operation, the ministry said.
“The ring members took buses or the train to go to places like Henan, where some of the children were sold, while others would be taken to Shandong or Hebei ,” said the leading police officer in the bust, Chen Shiqu. “The children are very little, and were fed a lot of sleeping pills. It must have wrecked them mentally and physically,” Chen said.
One woman suspected of delivering the captives said feeding the babies sleeping pills “spared a lot of potential trouble” because they would be sound asleep for a day or two. She said she got 4,500 yuan (HK$5,680) for smuggling each child. A notebook owned by one of the suspected ringleaders showed the details of each transaction. Most babies were sold for about 20,000 yuan each.
The ministry said it was drafting a law in co-operation with the judiciary and the prosecutor general to impose harsher punishments on traffickers and buyers, and that parents who sold their children would also be sentenced severely.
But Beijing-based lawyer Zhang Zhitong, of Jingrun and Partners, was doubtful whether the heavier punishments would stop the practice, as long as the demand for other people’s children existed.
“Those who sell and buy children are usually in inland, poorer areas, and people know little about the law. They see the economic incentive – from thousands to tens of thousands of yuan – and think it’s a good deal,” he said.
The total number of children that the gang has kidnapped is unknown
Zhang said the market was fuelled in part by the adoption law. Rather than navigating the bureaucracy that was involved, adults would sometimes turn to traffickers instead, he said.
A month ago, it was revealed that a maternity doctor in Fuping county in Shaanxi province sold over 20 newborns after lying to parents that the babies had died or had serious birth defects.
In 2011, 178 abducted children were rescued in an operation that saw more than 600 people detained across 10 provinces.Source: BBC – “Chinese police rescue 92 abducted children” Source: SCMP – “Scores of children saved as police bust China kidnap ring”
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