Sold…, a Glimpse of China’s Illegal Market in Children

By: Charmaine Santos


Xiao Chaohua’s son went missing in February 2007. Upon immediately telling the police, the policeman replied that there was no point in searching for his son since he had probably been snatched and already in another city. Xiao journeyed across China in search for his son, selling his small clothes shop so that he could buy a van. He travelled to China’s four biggest cities and nineteen out of twenty-two provincial capitals. Thousands of Chinese parents experience Xiao’s agony every year.

Twelve years ago, police in Guangxi province found twenty-eight drugged babies in nylon bags on the back of a bus. One died from suffocation. The child trafficking leaders behind this were sentenced to death. Another operation in China led to 1,094 arrests and the rescue of 382 babies. The U.S. State Department estimates that 20,000 children in China are abducted every year, or 400 a week. The Chinese government doesn’t provide any figures, but the Chinese state media suggests that the figure can be 200,000 children per year. The Chinese police reject this estimate. The majority of children abducted are lost forever, unless sold for adoption or forced to work as beggars for criminal gangs. Unfortunately, newborn babies are often sold on websites or online chat forums since too many babies are born outside of China’s family planning laws. A baby boy can sell for up to $16,000, but double for a girl.

Xiao now has his van parked at a local high school. Dozens of pictures of abducted children cover the van. Xiao is currently working for Suishou Public Welfare Fund, an anti-trafficking organization, which helps parents find their missing children by posting pictures of child beggars online. Xiao wants tougher punishment for people who buy children since they may only face up to three years in prison. In reality, however, most buyers do not get charged. Xiao believes the black market in children will continue to thrive until the law is changed.

Charmaine Santos is a sophomore at the University of San Francisco pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Biology as well as minors in Chemistry and Health Studies. She volunteers alongside UCSF medical students at a student-run homeless clinic in San Francisco and is also an active volunteer with Operation Access. Charmaine is also a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Patience, Martin. (2015, March 11). “The Father Searching For His Abducted Son.” BBC. Retrieved May 6, 2015 from

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