Monday, October 08, 2007

China's forgotten child kidnap victims

Yunnan province: Children are frequently abducted

Whilst the world’s media covered the disappearance of Madeleine McCann for over three months, over 16,000 children went missing but were unreported anywhere. These children were some of the more than 70,000 children who go missing in China every year. They are stolen and provided to new parents whilst older girls are sold into the sex trade or as wives. Detective Zhu is the last resort for parents of the missing. An ex-police officer, he’s been helping search for such children for over 10 years. He says he has carried out more than 1000 rescues in Yunnan province, in southern China, alone.

Channel Four’s Dispatches investigated the growing trade in child abductions which, it claimed, China’s government doesn’t want the world to know.

Birth permits are required in China since the ‘one child policy’ was implemented and there is an 8000 ¥ fine for flouting this rule. Chen Jie’s parents owned up to breaking this law but only after their son was stolen from them. And many blame the one child policy for the kidnappings

Some parents of an illegal child face a 20,000 ¥ fine plus late immediately plus late fees of 100 ¥ per day. This is more than 5 years wages in rural areas where wages are as little as 3000 ¥ per annum. A breach of the law is commonplace and fines account for millions of Yuan in revenue for local government.

In Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, 100 parents travelled to Beijing to petition authorities. Twenty four children were reunited with their parents after a special task force was sent to investigate, but many of thos who sought help have been warned off making any further protests.

Ultra sound to determine the sex of a child is illegal and many unwanted girls are sold to traffickers. And some are willing to speak about their trade. One trafficker spoke how a child can fetch 8000 ¥ or more. “It’s supply and demand”, said Yang Li who has now given up his life of crime. “Something must be wrong in treating children as goods”, he says.

Whilst boys are much sought after, girls, especially ones in their early teens are kidnapped as fodder for the sex trade or to be married off in a China where women are now dwindling. There are now more than 120 boys for 120 girls an increase in the male population of more than 20% in the last 30 years [MSNBC].

The authorities admit the existence of a gender imbalance which was creating social problems, however the one child policy is likely to remain in force until 2010. For the parents of 5 year old Chen Jie, the search continues, but without any media spotlight.

No comments: