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Beijing - Trafficking of women from northern Myanmar to China has become rampant as Chinese families attempt to find brides for their male relatives, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. 

In a report, the rights watchdog described an industry that sells women primarily from Myanmar's restive Kachin State to China for 3,000 to 13,000 dollars.

"The dearth of livelihoods and basic rights protections have made these women easy prey for traffickers, who have little reason to fear law enforcement on either side of the border," said HRW spokeswoman Heather Barr. 

In interviews, 37 trafficked women described how they were held against their will by Chinese families and subjected to physical and sexual abuse, although most were allowed to leave once they had a baby.

The group said much of the demand for trafficked brides is driven by China's stark gender imbalance, created by the former one-child policy and a strong cultural preference for male children. 

The outcome is that there are between "30 and 40 million missing women" in China and as many as "25 per cent of Chinese men in their late 30s will never have married" by 2030, it said. 

Women in Kachin State are particularly vulnerable as the state is home to an ongoing insurgency. The conflict has uprooted 100,000 people in Kachin and neighbouring Shan state, the group said. 

dpa