Nine prominent political and social groups have appealed to Chinese leaders to halt an alarming rise in the sale of women as laborers or wives, saying the age-old practice is re-emerging throughout China, a state-run news agency reported Friday.

The China News Service cited "incomplete statistics" indicating women are being sold in 14 provinces and dozens of rural areas for as much as 4,000 yuan ($1,080) each in the country's richer southern regions.The practice of selling women as wives or laborers, dating from ancient China, was reputedly eradicated after the 1949 communist revolution, but has been revived in the countryside as rural Chinese have become freer and wealthier under economic reforms.