China freed 24 000 in 2011
Beijing - Chinese police rescued more than 24 000 abducted children and women last year, some of whom had been sold for adoption or forced into prostitution as far away as Angola, officials said on Sunday.
Trafficking of women and children is a serious problem in China - blamed in part on the strict "one-child" policy, which has put a premium on baby boys - and activists say the cases uncovered by police are the tip of the iceberg.
The Ministry of Public Security said in a report posted on its website that police across the country had rescued 8 660 children and 15 458 women in 2011 - all victims of trafficking.
The ministry added that authorities had cracked nearly 3 200 trafficking gangs last year, including a ring that sent Chinese women to Angola and forced them into prostitution.
In November last year, it said, a special police team flew to the African country and detained 16 people accused of being involved in the ring, freeing 19 Chinese women in the process.
Police also discovered that more than 2 000 children had been abducted and sold for adoption - a big problem in China where couples unable to conceive or wanting a son, or male heir, can adopt kids from any source.
In November last year, for instance, police in the eastern province of Shandong broke up a human trafficking gang that bought babies from poor families and sold them on for as much as $8 000.
In one scandal that shocked the nation, authorities in 2007 found that thousands of people had been abducted and forced into slave labour in brickyards and mines across China.
More recently, police said in July that they had freed 89 children in a crackdown on trafficking launched earlier that year.
Police also arrested 369 people in the operation, which aimed to break up a pair of "large criminal enterprises" involved in child-trafficking across 14 provinces, they said at the time.