Amendments to the Criminal Law adopted by China's top legislature on Saturday have made buying abducted children from traffickers punishable under the law.
The amendments made to Article 241 of the Criminal Law explicitly specify those who buy an abducted child but "do not maltreat the child nor obstruct his or her rescue" to be covered by the law. However, the punishment will be less than those who do maltreat the child or obstruct rescue, according to reports by the Xinhua News Agency.
Previously, suspects who have been found to have bought a trafficked child without maltreating them have been exempt from punishment.
The amendments were approved by the National People's Congress' Standing Committee on Saturday. They will take effect on Nov. 1.
Between 2010 and 2014, Chinese courts heard 7,719 cases involving trafficked women and children. In 57 percent of cases, traffickers were sentenced to between five years and death, according to Sun Jungong, spokesperson of the Supreme People's Court in February.
However, buyers rarely ever get punished at all. According to provisions before the amendment, buyers of abducted children can be sentenced to up to three years, but "may be exempted from being investigated for criminal responsibility."
The fact that buyers may be exempted deters local police from filing abduction cases.
Buyers, whether they maltreat the abducted child or not, are the ones keeping the traffickers in business, according to experts.
The problem of trafficking is made worse by China's lack of a liberal adoption system that prevents people from obtaining a child via legal means. This causes many who want children to deal with traffickers.
Around 70 percent of the abducted children under 6 are boys, while those aged 14 to 18 are girls, according to news portal caixin.com.
Among the 133 abduction cases studied in the caixin.com report, 69 percent of abducted children were sold by their parents.
A lot of rescued children cannot go back home because their parents no longer want them and refuse to take them back.