Family holiday strengthens campaign to rescue stolen children

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, February 8, 2011
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The photograph shows the distorted figure of a crippled child thrusting a red plastic bucket at passersby as he begs on the street.

"I called the police 11 times before an officer answered, but he told me that they would not do anything as there are so many street beggars," wrote "VVweifenglinlin" in a microblog posting above the photo.

"The police finally came to take the child to safety after I called again and threatened to report his dereliction of duty," said the posting from Emeishan City in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The image was one of about 250 photos and videos posted Sunday on two Chinese microblogs established in a campaign to rescue children who have been forced into begging, many of them stolen from their families.

Microblog creator Yu Jianrong, of the Rural Development Institute of China Academy of Social Sciences, hit upon the idea after he received a letter from the distraught parents of an abducted child.

A netizen happened to take a photo of the 6-year-old begging in Xiamen City, Fujian Province, early this month. The child was abducted from Quanzhou City, also in Fujian in 2009.

"This is utterly devoid of conscience!" Yu wrote in a posting on his own microblog, which has about 320,000 followers, calling netizens to help locate the child.

First results

Yu, who established a reputation as a farmers' rights activist, opened the two microblogs on and, two popular Twitter-like services.

He has recruited two volunteers and is planning to recruit more for the campaign that is scheduled to end in May.

Since the microblogs were set up on Jan. 25, more than 1,200 images of child beggars have been posted. The postings usually include the times and places where the children beg.

However, the number of followers has boomed during China's annual Spring Festival holiday week, a time of family gatherings across the country that started on Feb. 2.

In just two weeks, the microblogs have accumulated about 154,000 followers, including some local police authorities.

Growing numbers of ordinary people are taking photos or videos for publication on the microblogs in order to help parents locate missing or abducted children.

The postings came in dozens in the first couple of days, but now they came in hundreds.

"The public enthusiasm exceeded our expectations," said Hou Zhihui, a volunteer who maintains the microblogs.

The efforts are starting to yield some results, Hou told Xinhua. "Two parents have told us that they have seen kids in photos who are very much like their missing children, and they are investigating," he said. [ Some parents have reportedly quit their jobs and spent years traversing the country in search of their missing children.

The stolen children are often sold to childless couples or those who favor boys over girls. The abductors often force other children to beg. To earn sympathy, some have been deliberately handicapped.

Changing lives

"It was heart-rending to first read the postings," said Yin Hang, a lawyer in Wenzhou City, the eastern Zhejiang Province.

"I condemned those devils over and over and didn't sleep that night. I determined to take such photos to do my part too," said Yin, father of a 2-year-old girl.

Some netizens have called on police authorities to take in all child beggars and investigate their identities.

"The police should show up and rescue them while civil affairs authorities should offer them aid," said Yu. "Citizens can report them if they fail to act."

Police nationwide launched crackdown on human trafficking in April 2009and had found more than 6,700 children by November last year, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

In addition, police have stepped up measures to help reunite abducted children with their real parents. These include a database of DNA samples from children suspected of being kidnapped and their parents.

The database had helped reunite 813 children with their parents, the ministry announced in September last year.

Yu has called on all netizens to do their part to rescue abducted children. Sina's and Tencent's microblog services have more than 150 million registered users.

"Our slight efforts may help to change a life and restore the families of abducted children," he said.

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