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Child trafficking in China: Evidence from sentencing documents

Yanyu Xin, Tianji Cai


Child trafficking has long been internationally recognized as a serious crime. However, due to data scarcity and inconsistent definitions, the scope and nature of such criminal activity are not well understood in China. To fill this gap, this study aims to provide new evidence by digitizing and analyzing sentencing documents on child trafficking in China during 2014-2016.

Taking advantage of web scraping techniques, all child trafficking cases were downloaded from the China Judgments Online website. Through geographic mapping and network analysis, we identified four geographic hotspots for trafficking—the central region (Shandong, Henan, and Hebei provinces), the east (Jiangsu, and Zhejiang provinces), the southeast (Guangdong and Fujian provinces) and the southwest (Sichuan, Guizhou, and Yunnan provinces)—and explored the connection between the hotspots and the gender of victims. We further examined the effect of provincial socioeconomic characteristics on the frequency of trafficking cases, and found that sex ratio at birth and the number of legal adoptions per thousand were positively correlated to the frequency of buying and selling children.


Child trafficking; China; gender difference; illegal adoption

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