Suffer the children

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, October 9, 2010
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Few rescued

In fact, Yang called the police soon after he found his son missing, but no one believed the boy was kidnapped. Three days later, the case was put on record, but no actual investigation resulted.

Feeling helpless, Yang looked for his boy by himself for a week. He didn't sleep until he fainted.

In China, cases of children missing within 24 hours cannot be registered by local police bureau. Instead, parents are asked to give evidence of trafficking, not that their children are simply "missing".

Many cases indicate that it is within 24 hours that traffickers transfer or sell the children, and police miss the best opportunities to save them.

In April, Yang and other parents went to Beijing to address their grievances to Chen Shiqu, head of the Ministry of Public Security's Office Against Human Trafficking. Yang said Chen told them he would assign special investigation groups for each case.

"Nothing happened after that," Yang said disappointedly.

During a 16-month anti-trafficking campaign that began in April 2009, police had rescued 5,896 kidnapped children and 10,621 women, according to the Ministry of Public Security. Police arrested 17,528 suspects for human trafficking crimes, including 19 of the 20 most-wanted, said its statement.

"Only a few missing children exposed on Baby Come Home website are reunited with their parents, which means the total trafficked population is much bigger," said Zhang Baoyan.

In addition to police efforts, 160 kids among 6,000 registered missing children in three years were found via Baby Come Home, according to Zhang.

Zhang said the lack of timely rescues resulted from shortage of funds and police.

"The cases are not given more priority than supposedly 'more important' major criminal cases," she said.

Light sentences

Lawyer Zhang Zhiwei, legal consultant of Baby Come Home, told the Global Times that a core problem of rampant child trafficking cases lies in huge interests behind the trafficking business and light punishment, despite the deep-rooted traditional values and unsound pension system.

According to China's criminal law, whoever abducts and sells a woman or child shall be sentenced not less than five years but no more than 10 years in prison and shall also be fined. Whoever buys an abducted woman or child shall be sentenced no more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance.

However, many complain that penalties for traffickers are too loose to effectively curb the crime, because trafficking of women and children results in a maximum of five years imprisonment in general.

The traffickers are sentenced to two or three years in prison. If they behave well, they come out earlier and resume the business, according to the website.

Zhang believes buyers are the real criminals because there is basically no risk in buying a trafficked child.

"Although China's criminal law punishes buyers of abducted women or children, the anti-trafficking campaigns are mainly focused on traffickers,"he said.

"Buyers are often exempted from criminal responsibility if they do not abuse the child or hinder the rescue."

Li Zhongmei, mother of two daughters, paid a child trafficker 36,000 yuan to buy a baby boy from Xinzhou in Shanxi Province in 2008. Later, Li introduced another person to the trafficker, which led to another deal for a male infant. She was sentenced to a two-year imprisonment for "trading trafficked child".

The Supreme People's Court vowed last month to impose harsher sentences on buyers to curb the buyer's market.

Some local governments are turning a blind eye to the problem, because in some areas, an abducted child's identity can be easily "legitimized" by paying 600 yuan, said Sun Haiyang, from Shenzhen, who lost his son in 2007.

"We count on more people to understand the situation and get involved," he said. "We can't find our children because people sit back and ignore the crime."

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