Family members of a kidnapped boy cannot hold back their tears after their child is rescued by police and comes home to Du'an Yao autonomous county, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Aug 4. Mo Xiantao / Xinhua
BEIJING - The number of criminals convicted of human trafficking has risen sharply in the first seven months of this year, the country's top court said on Tuesday.
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) said 2,137 criminals were convicted in the 1,233 cases of human trafficking that were dealt with nationally from January to July, a 45.23 percent increase over the same period last year.
The severity of sentences handed out to 1,238 of the convicted were for periods of either more than five years, a life sentence or the death sentence, an increase of 75 percent over the same period last year, according to court data.
"The number of human trafficking cases continues to rise despite severe penalties for such cases. Combating human trafficking will be a long, difficult job for the courts," Sun Jungong, spokesman for the SPC, said on Tuesday.
"To the human traffickers who intentionally kidnap children for profit, we will impose severe punishments. For kidnappers sentenced to death with convictions that are up to the legal standard, the SPC will approve the sentences in order to curb such crimes," he warned.
According to the Criminal Law, those who kidnap more than three children could face a minimum of five years in prison to the maximum of a death sentence.
The top court also announced that two human traffickers had been executed on Monday.
Lu Jincheng, a 25-year-old farmer in Southeast China's Fujian province, was convicted of trafficking an 8-month-old boy in 2008 after killing his mother and 75-year-old grandmother. He later sold the boy for 37,000 yuan ($5,433).
He Cong, a 36-year-old farmer, was convicted of kidnapping 12 children, aged 1 to 7, from 2006 to 2007 in Southwest China's Guizhou province and selling them in Central China's Henan province.
Sun said the court will insist that severe penalties be imposed on those who profit from selling women and children, while it is inclined to be more lenient toward those who purchase them, if the kidnap victims have been treated kindly.
According to the law, those who purchased kidnap victims and cooperate with the authorities by returning the victims to their families may not be punished, while those who do not cooperate could face possible sentences of three years in prison.
Xue Shulan, a judge in the SPC, attributed the rising number of human trafficking cases to the demand of a large market, especially in rural areas where people who have a preference for males are willing to spend a lot of money to buy a boy.
About 30,000 to 60,000 children are reported missing every year in China, but it is difficult to estimate how many are actually cases of human trafficking, the Ministry of Public Security said.