Sun, Sep 30, 2007 - Page 17 News List

Where's our child?

In China, 190 children are stolen every day to full the demand for sons. Brokenhearted parents trying to find their loved ones face retaliation from traffickers and government intransigence

By Clare Dwyer Hogg  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Chen Jie is very much part of the statistics - one stolen child in the mass of 70,000 snatched every year. His little life had already been fraught with difficulty. He was born a year after the Chens started seeing each other: the One Child Policy stipulates that children cannot be born without a birth permit, and you cannot have a birth permit if you don't have a marriage certificate. So Li had him in secret, giving birth in her mother's pigsty. Li and Lung hid their little boy for a year until they came to a decision that without a birth permit, without an official existence, Chen Jie's life would be nothing. They confessed to the authorities, and were ordered to pay a fine of US$1,040. They only finished paying that debt last year.

"It has been very difficult," Li says, via a translator, speaking on a crackling line from their tiny apartment in the migrant workers' ghetto. "We quarrel from time to time, but every time we think of our child, we remember we share the same goal. We don't want Chen Jie to come back to a broken family."

The strength to stay together - like the rejection of suicide - is fuelled by the need to believe that they are maintaining a home for their missing boy.

Searching for the lost

Part of the Chens' problem, and the problem for many parents like them, is that they are up against a highly organized criminal network which supplies a seemingly never-ending demand. Add to the mix that the moral code is skewed when it comes to "adopting" (buying) children. If you were caught buying a child in the UK, you would be charged with child trafficking. Yet in China - as incongruous as it may seem - while it is illegal to abandon, steal or sell a child, it is not necessarily illegal to buy one. CCTV, a government-sponsored news outlet, recently reported that "Under the current law for families that adopt trafficked children, if they have not abused the children, and have not obstructed the rescue operations, the law enforcement can choose not to press charges, not to pursue further. Many parents of missing children find that unacceptable." Parents of stolen children are immediately on the back foot; the law is essentially non-punitive, so child traffickers can justify their actions - they are simply supplying a demand that is not, in itself, a crime. Except, of course, it is. People buying a child have no guarantee that the child was willingly given up by his parents. And when the motivator for providing that child is money, reassurances mean nothing. A boy can fetch around US$900 which is a lot of money for one "job," when you consider that a skilled production worker in China earns US$1,700 a year.

One trafficker explains how he and his cohorts would identify the suitability of a child through the vulnerability of his mother. They would watch, wait, take a note of her routines and bide their time for that moment when she would leave her son unattended. One such prize, he says, happened when the child was in bed, and the mother nipped out, unaware of watchful eyes. "We shoved a hanky into the boy's mouth to shut him up," the trafficker remembers, calmly plotting the strategy as if there was nothing abnormal in his actions, "and we bundled him into a sack."

This story has been viewed 9341 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top