Police search for lost parents of China's stolen children

New website aims to return child victims of trafficking to their homes

They gaze out at the camera with every variety of human expression – fear, hope, doubt, bafflement, dread. Some are asleep. One gapes with huge eyes. Some of the tiniest manage a sunny smile. But in truth, these children have little to smile about. What binds them together is that all of them were whisked away from their homes by criminal gangs and sold to families desperate enough to buy a child because they either want a son or are unable to have a child themselves.

A newly launched Chinese police website is aimed at reuniting scores of children found during a recent police crackdown on the trade.

"It's the first time the Ministry of Public Security has published data about children whose parents couldn't be found through the national DNA database," lawyer Zhang Zhiwei, who volunteers with a non-governmental organisation called Baby Come Home, told the China Daily newspaper.

The latest police campaign, prompted by widespread anger at poor enforcement of often lax trafficking laws, has rescued more than 2,000 missing children since 9 April.

The ministry hopes the website, called "Babies Looking for Home", will help them track down the relatives of some 60 rescued children they have yet to reunite with their families.

The main impetus behind the trade is China's traditional preference for male children. But girls and women are also seized, partly to feed the demand of unmarried sons for brides, but also to work as labourers. Some children are snatched to serve as props for beggars, while women are kidnapped and sold into prostitution. Some poor rural families sell their girls so they can try for a boy, getting around the one -child policy.

The ministry reports that between 30,000 and 60,000 children are reported missing in China every year, but it is impossible to know with any certainty how many of those are caught up in trafficking. The national database only has records of around 30,000 in total.

Babies are not the only victims: older children are also taken. Some boys are sold to work in illegal brick kilns in the Chinese heartland. Many of the hundreds rescued in the past two years were still wearing their school uniforms at the time.

The database has plenty of information about the children – DNA provided by the children's parents is shared among the 236 laboratories in China that are equipped to test it. Any children whom the authorities suspect of having been abducted, or children whose history is unclear, are also tested.

Last week, 42 suspected traffickers were picked up for allegedly selling 52 children in the north of China.

But despite the best efforts of police, reuniting the children can be difficult: often they do not know where theycome from, or the names of their parents, and in many cases the children have formed bonds with their new parents, further complicating the task of reuniting them with their families. But the website is a first step.

Tang Weihua, a mother who lost her five-year-old son in 1999, told local media, "Even if I can't find my boy's photo on the website today, it's a blessing for desperate parents like us who have nearly lost hope."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Call Handler

£14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a Sales Ca...

Recruitment Genius: Registered Manager

£33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This local charity has an oppor...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Content Curator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a mobile television network wi...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash