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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn