Chinese parents embark on search missions… by marygreeley54
July 21, 2016 – Thousands of children, mostly boys, are being kidnapped and trafficked in the wake of China’s move to scrap its one child policy last year.
And with authorities sometimes unwilling to help, Chinese parents are going to extraordinary lengths to search for their children.
Getting a figure from authorities on the number of missing children around China is difficult, but estimates range from 10,000 to 200,000 a year.
Boys are often targeted to be sold on to families who don’t have a son, or forced into labour.
Girls may be snatched to be forced into prostitution.
Chinese police reported rescuing 13,000 children in a single year in 2014, but some parents involved in the search believe police at the local level do not do enough.
In China’s north-east, Zhang Nannan prepares for a routine that is becoming depressingly familiar.
For the eighth time in a week, the 30-year-old starts unfolding large poster stands featuring pictures of her six-year-old son.
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And in the late afternoon heat of mid-summer, she begins to once again tell her story to a curious local crowd.
“On the 3rd of January, my son was with his grandfather when they were both tricked by someone”, she says.
“So far I can’t find either of them. I don’t know what’s happened”.
Her son, named Zeyu, disappeared from the family home in central Hebei — one of the many poorer inland provinces where child trafficking occurs.
In the months that followed Zeyu and his grandfather’s disappearance, Ms Zhang tracked down vision from all the CCTV cameras near her home.
But none of them, nor the local police, helped get her any closer to finding her son.
That prompted her to join a travelling group of parents in the same situation, going town to town in the hope that someone might recognise a face from a photo.
“Before my life was so good, so secure. My home had one daughter, one son. Now I feel I can’t work, I’m just so worried, so hurt.”
Ms Zhang’s story is familiar to thousands of families across rural China.
Parents fear police cover-up
“Every local government is afraid that unseemly things could be uncovered”, said Xiao Chaohua, whose son disappeared in 2007.
“(The police) are very scared, very scared of not being able to solve abduction cases. So they try to cover these things up”, he said.
Xiao Chaohua also organises the search missions, and has clocked up hundreds of thousands of kilometres driving around the country handing out missing children flyers.
In March, he travelled to Beijing to try to lodge a petition to complain about mishandling of child abduction cases by local police.
But he says he was taken away by an undercover officer from his home province of Guangdong, and put on a train heading away from the capital.
At a national level, police have set up an ‘amber alert’ style system that sends out smartphone notifications when a child is reported missing in a particular area.
There’s hope too that the abolition of the One Child Policy in late 2015 — long seen as a major contributing factor fuelling the demand for boys in rural areas — could help ease the problem.
But many parents in rural areas had long been able to have a second child if the first was a girl, meaning the ‘two-child’ limit might not make much of a difference.
For parents such as Zhang Nannan, the focus remains firmly on reuniting with her son.
“If I can’t find my son this search will become the mission of my life. I hope he can live a safe happy life”, she said.