Associated Press
A parent looks for a lost child at a brick kiln at Liuwu Village in Yuncheng.

Where Are China’s Stolen Children?

May 05, 2009 08:00 AM
by Shannon Firth
In China, where children are sold or kidnapped every year by the thousands, a new government project could help locate and prevent child abductions and trafficking.

Confronting Kidnapping in China

By the end of May, China hopes to have over 200 DNA centers ready to process and store genetic material to help stop child trafficking, the BBC reported. About 43 centers have already been established.

According to The Associated Press, which cited a government ministry’s Web site, the DNA databases will store samples of DNA from parents whose children have been kidnapped. Centers will also obtain samples from allegedly abducted children, as well as from “vagrant children with an unclear history.”

According to the BBC, China’s rigid one-child policy of birth control has compounded the nation’s child trafficking problem. Due to cultural preferences, boys are at greater risk of being abducted.

The policy, however, has been even more dangerous for baby girls, who have been killed, aborted, or abandoned in increasing numbers since it took effect more than a quarter-century ago, Reuters reported. Consequently, 119 boys are born for every 100 girls. Reuters noted, “The imbalance has created criminal demand for abducted or bought baby boys, but also for baby girls destined to be future brides attracting rich dowries.”

In January 2008, nine kidnapping victims were reunited with their parents when a child trafficking ring was discovered in central China.

According to Reuters, which cited the Xinhua news agency, the ring was a family operation spearheaded by a man named Ye Zengxi. Apparently, Ye’s 12-year-old nephew used toys and food to tempt children aged 2-8 away from their parents, before carrying them off on a motorbike.

Not every child involved in these rings is kidnapped. According to, needy parents are often persuaded to give up their children by traffickers who tell them their children will send money home to them.

Audio: Chinese orphans

In 2006, NPR delivered a report about the trial of an orphanage director in southern China accused of putting kidnapped kids whom he allegedly purchased up for adoption. NPR’s Anthony Kuhn said, “police interrogators of the defendant show that the allegedly kidnapped children were all girls, abandoned days after birth, all from poor areas where … male offspring are favored.” According to the report, the children’s photos were printed in the newspaper and no one claimed them.

Background: China’s one-child policy

In 2008 Zhang Weiqing, the minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission in China, stated that the government would continue its one-child policy despite rumors to the contrary.

The law prevents most parents from having more than one child, except farmers who are limited to two. Zhang, who predicts there will be 200 million childbearing adults in the next 10 years, argues, “Given such a large population base, there would be major fluctuations in population growth if we abandoned the one-child rule now.”

Last year, the Human Rights Watch film festival showcased the documentary film, “China’s Stolen Children,” which explored the consequences of China’s one-child policy. The film profiled a detective devoted to locating missing children, a child trafficker and an unwed pregnant teenager. Way Ling, 19, must decide between paying steep fines to keep her child, who will be granted no rights under Chinese law, or selling it to a child-trafficker.

Related Topic: Kidnapped children cloud international adoption; national DNA databases

In February 1999, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Sivagama and Nageshwar Rao’s son, Subash, was stolen, sold and sent abroad. His parents gave up the two huts they’d inherited, moved to a concrete one-room house, and took their daughter out of school, all so they could pay investigators to find their son.

In April, following the lead of both the United States and the U.K., the leader of the national DNA database in Australia, Ben McDevitt, said he’d like to take samples from individuals who have been “charged but not convicted” of crimes, reported the Canberra Times.

“I personally believe that newcomers to crime need to be added to the national DNA database as soon as possible,” McDevitt told the newspaper.

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