Database gives hope to abducted children

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Thousands of children have been reunited with their parents thanks to a groundbreaking national DNA database, a leading figure in the fight against trafficking said.

Chen Shiqu, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s human traffi cking task force, says the DNA database has helped many parents find their children. [Photo/China Daily]

Chen Shiqu, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s human traffi cking task force, says the DNA database has helped many parents find their children. [Photo/China Daily]

More than 2,300 youngsters, who were abducted, sold or reported missing, have been able to track their blood relatives, Chen Shiqu, director of the Ministry of Public Security's human trafficking task force, said in an interview.

When police rescue abducted children or find vagrant youths, they immediately take blood samples for DNA sampling, he said.

The exact number of entries in the database is unknown, but since its launch in April 2009 it has matched 2,348 children with their biological parents. Last year, it helped reunite 521 families.

"It is especially efficient in helping parents and children who have been separated for years to find each other," he said.

The system quickly compares DNA samples from both parents and children and can be accessed by police nationally.

"Years of separation can change many things, especially a child's physical appearance,'' he said.

The DNA database allows for an almost immediate identification.

In November 2011, Gan Liang, who was abducted when he was 3 from Guizhou province in 1988, was reunited with his mother after 25 years, Guizhou Metropolitan Daily reported.

The mother submitted a blood sample in 2010 through Baby Back Home, an NGO devoted to helping parents find lost children. Her son did the same in September 2011 at a police station in Shandong province.

Zhang Baoyan, founder of Baby Back Home, said the database is "the most effective way" to reunite families.

The website receives an average of 50 inquiries daily from both parents and people who think they may have been abducted.

The NGO takes the blood samples and hands them to the ministry for DNA testing.

"But there are still some parents of missing children who have no idea about the DNA database," she said.

Chen said his department is drafting an action plan on human trafficking that will be issued this month.

Police will target villages in Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces, as well as the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and take DNA samples from vagrant children and children they suspect may have been abducted.

No matter what advanced technology police use, the key lies in tackling child abduction, Chen said. Those found guilty of the heinous crime should face more severe punishment, he said.

In impoverished areas, such as Yunnan and Sichuan, villagers have sold their children and in relatively well-off provinces, such as Fujian, Guangdong and Shandong, childless couples have bought abducted children.

These couples strongly believe in the importance of "carrying on the family line", and that it is important to have sons to support them in old age.

Under the Criminal Procedure Law, buyers of trafficked children will only be held criminally responsible if they defied rescue efforts or physically abused the children.

Chen said lawmakers are mulling revising the law.

"Efforts should also be made to send signals to buyers that, no matter how many years they have kept the child, they are not the parents and will face severe punishment," he said.

From January to October 2012, police handled 1,868 cases of child trafficking and 4,760 cases of human trafficking, according to the ministry.

About 1,240 trafficking gangs were smashed and 17,871 suspects detained, while police rescued 14,971 trafficked children and 9,156 abducted women.

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