BEIJING - Police in China have rescued 11 babies from a trafficking ring and are seeking to track down the parents, an officer told AFP Friday.
Thirty-two suspects have been arrested in connection with the case, which is centred around the Yunnan province in China's southwest and has made national headlines.
China has a flourishing underground child trafficking industry, for which tens of thousands of children are believed to be stolen or sold each year, with demand fuelled by a traditional preference for sons and a one-child limit.
Police in Yunnan began an investigation into the suspected trafficking in February, an officer at the Kaiyuan Railway Police Station told AFP, adding that the children in this case are believed to have been sold to traffickers by parents who had exceeded China's one-child limit.
"So far, we haven't found that any of the children have been stolen," said the officer, who declined to give his name.
"The babies are now housed in our local children's welfare centre, and these past few days people have been calling to find out more about their situation, with some hoping to adopt them," he said.
He added that the children are in good health, aside from one who is receiving treatment for eye problems, and that some of the infants had been trafficked several times.
China has a flourishing underground child trafficking industry, for which tens of thousands of children are believed to be stolen each year, with demand fuelled by a one-child limit combined with a traditional preference for sons.
Users of China's popular online social networks reacted with shock to the case, as local authorities circulated photos of the babies in the hope of finding their parents.
"These children were sold by their own biological parents," wrote one user of Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.
"To send them back to those people, it's just too complicated."
On Monday, police in east China's Fujian province announced that they had arrested 13 suspects and rescued seven children in a separate trafficking case.
China does not publish figures on how many children are seized every year but said it rescued 24,000 in the first 10 months of 2013, probably a fraction of total cases.