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China: Baby Traffickers Sentenced to Death

(Oct. 7, 2010) On September 27, 2010, the Quanzhou Intermediate People's Court in China's coastal Fujian Province sentenced two men to death on charges of human trafficking. The traffickers, Li Diji and Wu Suiqing, along with 11 accomplices, were convicted of abducting a total of 46 baby boys from inland provinces and selling them in rural Anxi County, Fujian, for between RMB30,000-40,000 (about US$4,500-$6,000) each. The court found Li guilty of trafficking 23 children and Wu of trafficking 17 and in addition to the death sentence ordered that the entirety of their property be confiscated and deprived them of their political rights for life. The trafficking allegedly occurred between September 2007 and February 2009. (Zhang Jiawei, Two Child Traffickers Sentenced to Death, CHINA DAILY (Sept. 28, 2010),; Zheng Liang, Fujian Quanzhou Tries Case of Trafficking of Children, Two Culprits Sentenced to Death [in Chinese], CHINACOURT.ORG (Sept. 28, 2010), In cases that may involve imposition of the death penalty, intermediate people's courts are courts of first instance.

Local police rescued the infants, all of whom were one-year old or younger and who came from poor regions of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guangxi. The parents have as yet not been identified, according to one news report, which also noted that “[a] traditional preference for boys, especially in rural areas, as well as tight birth control policies that limit families to one or two children, have led to a rise in trafficking in recent years.” (China Sentences Two Child Traffickers to Death, BBC NEWS (Sept. 28, 2010),; Ben Blanchard,China Gives Death Sentences to Two Child Traffickers, REUTERS ALERTNET (Sept. 27, 2010),

The court held that defendants Li Diji and Wu Suiqing committed the crime of trafficking of children and that the other 11 defendants were guilty, to a lesser degree, of the offenses of trafficking of children, selling trafficked children, and unlawful harboring of children. (Zheng Lang, supra; BBC NEWS, supra.) The key applicable provisions of China's Criminal Law are articles 240, 241, and 310. (Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China (adopted on July 1, 1979; extensively amended effective Oct. 1, 1997; as last amended on Feb. 28, 2009) [bilingual Chinese and English texts], CHINALAWINFO.COM,

The punishment for the offense of trafficking of women and children under the Criminal Law's article 240 varies, from a minimum of five years' fixed imprisonment and concurrent fine to a ten-year sentence, life imprisonment, or the death penalty and confiscation of property (art. 240, ¶ 1). One of the circumstances in which the most severe sentences will be imposed is if the trafficking involves more than three victims (art. 240, ¶ 1(2)). The article defines the offense of trafficking in women and children as any act of abducting, kidnapping, buying, selling, transporting, or transshipping women and children, for the purpose of selling the victim (art. 240, ¶ 2).

Under article 241, any person who buys a trafficked woman or child will be subject to a fixed term of up to three years' imprisonment, criminal detention, or public surveillance; buying and then selling the victim incurs penalties under the provisions of article 240 (art. 241, ¶¶ 1, 5). Article 241 stipulates, however, that whoever buys a child but does not maltreat him or her or obstruct the child's rescue may be exempted from being pursued for criminal liability (art. 241, ¶ 6). Those who harbor criminals may face punishments ranging from fixed-term imprisonment for up to three years, criminal detention, or public surveillance to a fixed prison term of three to ten years (art. 310, ¶ 1). (Criminal Law, supra.)

Also relevant is a set of opinions issued by China's judicial organs on punishing trafficking crimes involving women and children, which was promulgated and effective on March 15, 2010. (The Notice of the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Justice on Issuing the Opinions on Legally Punishing the Crimes of Abducting and Trafficking in Women and Children [in Chinese] [hereinafter Opinions], CHINALAWINFO.COM, (last visited Oct. 4, 2010).) The document takes note of the increasing number of cases and increased gravity of such crimes during the period 2007-2009.

Specifically, the Opinions note that in 2008 there were 1,353 trials involving trafficking in women and children, a nearly 10% rise over 2007, and that 2,161 persons were convicted of the crime, an increase of about 11%. Among the convicted, 1,319 persons were sentenced to terms of at least five years' imprisonment, life imprisonment, or death, an increase of about 10% over 2007. The rate of heavy penalties meted out was thus 61%, much higher than the heavy punishment rate of over 45% among all criminal cases for the same period. In 2009, there were 1,636 trials (almost 21% more than in 2008), and 2,413 persons were convicted (an 11.7% increase), among whom 1,475 were sentenced to the heavier punishments (an 11.83% increase). (Id.)

The Opinions call for enhanced, effective cooperation among the judicial organs in handling cases of trafficking in women and children. The document is divided into sections on jurisdiction, case filing, evidence, determination of the nature of the crime (e.g., distinguishing the placing infants for adoption done for a profit motive versus as an act done between people), joint crimes, single and multiple crimes, application of criminal punishments, and cross-border crimes. (Id.)

The incidences of child abduction in China have reportedly been increasing 45% a year, with from 30,000 to 60,000 children reported missing annually, and over the years China has executed convicted child traffickers. As another part of its response to the problem, the Chinese government has adopted the United Nations supplementary protocol on human trafficking to better coordinate cross-border efforts in combating the crime. China accepted the protocol on February 8, 2010; it ratified the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime on September 23, 2003. (B. McPherson, China to Execute Child Traffickers, ALLVOICES (Sept. 28, 2010),
.) (United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and Its Protocols, (last visited Oct. 4, 2010); Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 2237 United Nations Treaty Series at 319, Doc. A/55/383 (New York, Nov. 15, 2000, in force on Dec. 25, 2003),
; Peter Foster, China Executes Two in Child Trafficking Crackdown, TELEGRAPH (Nov. 27, 2009),
; China Executes Traffickers, BBC NEWS (Dec. 10, 2004),