In a major crackdown on child trafficking in China, the country's police have now busted four major Internet-based baby trafficking rings.
According to China's Public Security Ministry, police rescued 382 abducted babies and arrested nearly 1,100 suspects during a national sting that saw four major baby trafficking websites shut down.
Security officials in eastern China launched the six-month-long operation after receiving reports of a website promoting private adoptions.
That website, called Realize Your Dream for a Family, posed as a public welfare group connecting couples looking to adopt children needing homes.
However, The New York Times explains: "In reality [it] was a hard-nosed business buying and selling babies."
As the investigation progressed, Chinese police say they uncovered a virtual black market for baby trafficking headed by the four major websites they shut down and some 30 online forums and messaging groups. (Via CTV / CCTV)
Buying and selling babies is a long-standing and lucrative practice in China, despite punishments as harsh as the death penalty for traffickers.
Strict laws limiting families to one child, a traditional preference for boys, and poverty drive a thriving market in babies and children. Police say the five suspected ringleaders of the trafficking operation were bringing in as much as $1,000 per infant. (Via Sky News)
Chinese authorities now have the difficult task of establishing exactly where all the children came from. Investigators expect more arrests in the coming weeks, and they say it's unclear if the trafficking ring extended beyond China.