Monday, February 1, 2016

China's Stolen Children


                              Financial Times December 2, 2015  China's Missing Children
                  Chen Shengkuan tries to find his son, Zhaoyuan, who was taken in January 2015 from a                                                             village near the city of Zhanjiang.

For years, China has had a  major problem.  

According to the US Department of State, an estimated 20,000 children are abducted yearly in China.  Chinese state media places that number closer to 200,000 child abductions a year.  Although there is no consensus on reported figures, what remains is a devastating problem.  

                  Why are so many Chinese children abducted?

On January 25, 2016, the BBC reported the story of a kidnapping. A three-year old Chinese girl was brazenly abducted by an unknown woman. Fortunately, a security camera captured footage of the child being led away. The images were released to the public and went viral on social media. This time, the outcome was a happy one: police found the little girl and she was reunited with her family.  

As reported in the BBC article, child abduction and trafficking is not an uncommon occurrence China.  The problem is inextricably linked to China's one-child policy.  Established in 1979, the population control policy enforced a rule that most couples could only have one child, or face stiff penalties which ranged from fines to sterilization, even abortion.  

Child trafficking feeds into a system created by the one-child policy. According to the Financial Times, children are abducted from regions where there is a lack of enforcement, such as rural areas.  They are subsequently sold to urban areas where enforcement is more stringent.  

Boys fetch a higher price than girls.  According to the BBC, this is because boys are expected to "continue the family, and provide financially for elderly parents."  

It seems that most abducted children are sold in adoptions, but some are forced into working for gangs as beggars.  Others are kidnapped and used in forced labor.  Perhaps not surprisingly, young or teenage girls, may be pushed into prostitution and the sex trade.  Some children are kidnapped, only to have their organs harvested and sold in the black market.  

Responding to public outcry, in 2009, Chinese authorities set up a national anti-trafficking task force and a DNA database to help match profiles of missing children to their families.  Since then, The Economist reported in 2013, more than 54,000 children were rescued and 11,000 gangs were broken.

Despite this progress, each year thousands of children still go missing.  The impact on their families is devastating.  
Familiarize yourself with organizations involved in the fight against human trafficking, such as Stop the Traffik (UK) and Polaris Project (USA).  

Sources of Information:
Financial Times December 2, 2015, "Seasonal Appeal: China's Missing Children" by Lucy Hornby:

BBC Trending  January 25, 2016, "China's social media search for stolen children" blog by Sam Judah and Estelle Doyle:

BBC News Magazine  March 11, 2015, "The father searching for his abducted son" by Martin Patience:

National Geographic  November 13, 2015, "See How the One-Child Policy Changed China" by Aileen Clarke:

The Guardian (Opinion) March 12, 2015, "Missing, kidnapped, trafficked: China has a problem with its children" by Charles Custer:

The New Yorker January 10, 2014, "Can China Stop Organ Trafficking?" by Jiayang Fan:

The Economist  January 26, 2013, "A Cruel Trade":

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