China rescued and repatriated 1,281 abducted foreign women last year, along with 84 abducted foreign children, a senior official with the Ministry of Public Security has said.
Most of the victims were from neighboring countries, such as Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, said Chen Shiqu, director of the ministry's human trafficking taskforce.
Recently, police also found some abducted women from South American countries, such as Colombia.
In a typical case, in October, police in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, found four Colombian women working as prostitutes during raids on karaoke bars and other entertainment venues.
The International Organization for Migration's China office had told authorities in August that several South American women had been trafficked to Guangzhou to work in the sex industry.
With help from the Colombian embassy, police eventually arrested five Colombian nationals suspected of people smuggling. The four women were repatriated, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
Criminal gangs operating out of countries such as Colombia have also become a major challenge in the fight against human trafficking in part due to the successful efforts to wipe out the problem in North America, said Dai Peng, a professor of criminal investigation at the People's Public Security University of China.
"The situation got worse last year," Dai said.
"Human trafficking mainly stems from poverty, and the recent unstable political situation in some South American countries has resulted in a flow of people to other countries," Dai said.
He said intensified efforts by the United States and Canada to combat people smuggling had led to gangs looking for new destinations, such as China.
In most cases, the women are tricked into believing there are well-paying jobs waiting for them in China, Chen said, adding that the South American victims rescued so far have held tourist visas.
"Criminal organizations overseas always operate in collusion with a gang in China. They have a strict management structure and assume different tasks, such as kidnapping or transporting victims," Chen said. "Women are abducted from Vietnam and Myanmar and forced into prostitution or illegal marriages in China.
"We must resolutely target the people behind these organizations and make every effort to search for and rescue victims," he said.
However, authorities face major legal and language barriers when it comes to cooperating with counterparts overseas, as well as conducting investigations and collecting evidence abroad.
China has signed the Mekong River Sub-regional Cooperation Anti-trafficking Memo with Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia, to establish annual high-level exchanges. The ministry has also set up eight border offices with neighboring countries.
In November, the ministry and the International Organization for Migration, which is based in Switzerland, held a seminar in the Chinese capital attended by 60 frontline police officers from 10 provinces and regions.
Chen said discussions included how to identify abduction victims, how to improve coordination between authorities, and shared experiences of rescue work.
"Although some progress has been made, more cooperation in international law enforcement is needed to curb the rampant transnational human trafficking," Chen said.
He vowed that his taskforce will enhance intelligence exchange and cooperate with other countries to discover and rescue victims, and destroy trafficking rings.
The team also arranges regular training with the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in the US, and the US central bureau of Interpol.
Chen added that police nationwide will improve rescue work involving cross-border trafficking, streamline deployment and repatriation channels, and explore setting up transiting and rehabilitation centers in border areas for foreign abducted women and children.
Hong Daode, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, urged authorities to continue targeting nightclubs and other entertainment venues considered hotspots for illicit sex services.
Dai at the People's Public Security University of China also said that neighboring countries, as well as those in South America, must strengthen border controls and carefully investigate the identities of people crossing borders to prevent crime at the source.