Happy chinese girl — She did not know where she was. She did not speak the language. She was 16 years old.

Happy chinese girl — She did not know where she was. She did not speak the language. She was 16 years old.

The man said he was her husband at least that’s what the translation app indicated and he pressed himself against her. Nyo, a girl from a mountain village in the Shan hills of Myanmar, wasn’t quite sure how pregnancy worked. But it happened.

The baby, 9 days old and downy, looks undeniably Chinese. ‘Like her father,’ Nyo said. ‘The same lips.’

‘Chinese,’ she added, like a curse.

China’s ‘one child’ policy has been praised by its leaders for preventing the country’s population from exploding into a Malthusian nightmare. But over 30 years, China was robbed of millions of girls as families used gender-based abortions and other methods to ensure their only child was a boy.

These boys are now men, called bare branches because a shortage of wives could mean death to their family trees. At the height of the gender imbalance in 2004, 121 boys were born in China for every 100 girls, according to Chinese population figures.

To cope, Chinese men have begun importing wives from nearby countries, sometimes by force.

‘Bride trafficking is very common here in Shan State,’ said Zaw Min Tun, a member of the police anti-human-trafficking task force in Lashio, a town in northern Shan. ‘But only a few people are really aware of the trafficking.’

A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand estimated that about 21,000 women and girls from northern Myanmar were forced into marriage in just one province in China from 2013 to 2017.

The hamlet in Mongyai Township, high in the Shan hills of northeastern Myanmar, is little more than an army garrison, with soldiers and their families sheltering in metal-roofed shacks on dirt lanes.

After finishing school last year, Nyo and her classmate, Phyu, who are being identified by their nicknames because they are minors, decided they wanted more than what this impoverished army outpost offered.

A neighbor, Daw San Kyi, promised them waitressing jobs on the border with China, through the connections of another villager, Daw Hnin Wai.

Ms. Hnin Wai had the nicest home in the village, much fancier than anyone else’s, so the waitressing offer carried weight.

‘We trusted them,’ Phyu, now 17, said.

Early one morning in July 2018, a van came to Mongyai to pick the girls up. The mountain road made Phyu carsick. Ms. San Kyi offered her four pills for her nausea, one pink and three white.

After that, Phyu’s recollection of events is fuzzy. Someone also injected her arm with something, she said. A photo taken of her during that time shows her face puffy and eyes dazed.

‘Before this happened, Phyu was so happy and active,’ said Daw Aye Oo, her mother. ‘But they gave her something to make her forget and trigger her sexuality. They beat her. She doesn’t know she is ruined.’

Nyo, also now 17,