Chinese police have busted two child-trafficking rings after a six-month nationwide investigation, rescuing 178 children and arresting 608 suspects, the country's Ministry of Public Security announced this week.
Calling it "the biggest achievement since the launch of a national campaign against human trafficking," the ministry described in detail the joint effort of police forces in ten provinces in statement posted on its official website.
A traffic accident in May in southwestern Sichuan Province unexpectedly led the authorities to a network of child-traffickers headed by man named Cai Lianchao, the ministry said.
In August, police in southeastern Fujian Province uncovered another human trafficking ring led by a woman named Chen Xiumei, according to the statement.
After gathering initial evidence on the two rings that kidnapped and sold children across China, the ministry said 5,000 police officers conducted a highly coordinated nationwide investigation for several more months before finally arresting the suspects last week.
Officials placed rescued children in local orphanages while they tried to reunite them with their families, the ministry said. It added that female police officers were dispatched to take care of the children, some of whom were being treated for illnesses.
"We will strictly adhere to our policy of 'zero tolerance' on child-trafficking," the ministry emphasized in its statement.
"This policy is aimed at cracking down on the buyers' market," said Chen Shiqu, Director of the anti-human trafficking department at the Ministry of Public Security.
"We will ensure the buyers lose both their money and the purchased children, so that we can address the problem from the source by reducing the demand for kidnapped and trafficked children."
Since the government launched a national campaign against human trafficking in April 2009, police have arrested almost 50,000 suspects, rescuing more than 18,000 children as well as some 35,000 women, the ministry said.
Human trafficking is a major problem in China, with children and women being the primary victims.
Premier Wen Jiabao pledged last week that the government would continue to crack down on the crime to protect women and children.