Police in China have arrested a gang of 40 people suspected of buying at least 22 children in the nation's southwest and trafficking them to a wealthier region, state press said Friday.
The suspected trafficking ring allegedly bought young children -- 22 of them have so far been recovered -- in impoverished areas of Yunnan province and sold them in coastal Fujian province in the southeast, the Beijing Times said.
More than 200 police were involved in the Wednesday arrests that took place in the two provinces, it said.
Human trafficking remains a serious problem in China, with many sociologists blaming the nation's "one-child" family planning policy for fuelling the crime.
Wednesday's arrests come after an investigation was launched this week in the central province of Hunan into the suspected involvement of family planning officials in the abduction and sale of babies into overseas adoption.
According to state press reports, about 20 children were forcibly taken away from families who were allegedly in violation of the birth control policy, and put up for adoption abroad.
Under the "one-child" policy, aimed at controlling the world's largest population of 1.3 billion, people who live in urban areas are generally allowed one child, while rural families can have two if the first is a girl.
This has put a premium on baby boys, while baby girls are often sold off or abandoned as couples try for a male heir.