BEIJING (AP) — Transnational crime gangs are trafficking a growing number of Chinese women to Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa where they are forced into prostitution, a Chinese newspaper said Monday. The official China Daily cited a senior police officer as saying most of the trafficked women are from poor rural areas and are cheated by criminal gangs into thinking they are leaving to pursue overseas studies or well-paying jobs. Most of China’s trafficking cases are still domestic, with women being taken from poor areas in southwestern China’s Yunnan and Guizhou provinces to be forced into marriage elsewhere in the country, said Chen Shiqu, head of the anti-trafficking office of the Ministry of Public Security, according to the paper. But “there has been a growing trend for organized transnational human trafficking crime groups to target Chinese women for forced prostitution in foreign countries,” Chen was quoted as saying. The report said Chen did not provide specific figures, but added that police rescued 15 Chinese women trafficked to Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for prostitution in November. Two Chinese suspects were detained at the time, it said. Chen cited Malaysian police statistics as saying that 5,453 Chinese women suspected of working as prostitutes had been detained in the year to last November. China is both a destination and source country for human trafficking and anecdotal evidence suggests that cross-border trafficking of women is on the rise, according to the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking’s web site on the situation in China. Destinations for Chinese trafficking victims include Thailand, Malaysia, and countries in Africa, Europe and America, according to a 2010 fact sheet compiled by the U.N. project. Phones rang unanswered at the Ministry of Public Security’s information office and officials did not immediately respond to a faxed list of questions.