Police in China have arrested members of a gang accused of trafficking women from Myanmar, according to a report from state news agency Xinhua on Monday. Authorities in China’s northern autonomous region of Inner Mongolia arrested 31 suspects and recovered 14 victims, 11 of whom were from Myanmar. Among the Burmese victims were five children under the age of 18.
The arrests were the result of a three-month investigation by local authorities, who were alerted to the gang’s activities after a Burmese woman on a train told police she had been abducted in August. Police said that the suspects lured women with the promise of jobs and tours. They would then sell the women as wives in the country’s remote rural regions for between 50,000 to 90,000 yuan ($8,150 to $14,650), according to Xinhua.
Chinese authorities have recently made moves to crack down on trafficking, a major issue in the country with around 250,000 victims by most recent estimates, according to a report by Fair Observer. In September, police announced an initiative to crack down on websites arranging all-male tours to Southeast Asian destinations -- thought to be a source of trafficking of foreign brides.
China’s one-child policy is thought to be responsible for the growing demand for foreign brides. The country’s latest census showed that 118 males were born for every 100 females and by the year 2020 men of marriageable age are expected to outnumber women by 24 million, according to a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences report cited by Al Jazeera.
Criminal organizations have exploited the situation by preying on women from Myanmar, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, many of whom are recruited through marriage brokers, according to a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Office.