By James Pomfret and Venus Wu
DONGGUAN (Reuters) – In the quiet village of Shang Di, wedged among factory towns in southern China, Deng Huidong wheels out a dusty two-seater tricycle that her 9-month-old son rode the day he was abducted outside her family house in 2007.
Little Ruicong, who was snatched by men in a white van as he played in an alleyway, hasn’t been seen since.
He is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands of children who go missing in China each year, victims of roving criminal gangs preying on vulnerable areas.
“My heart is bleeding,” said Deng as she cried beside a framed photograph of her son splashing in a bath tub.
“I just want to find my son. Every time I see a child, it reminds me of my son and I wonder whether I will see him again.”
While China has made giant economic and social strides over the past few decades, the number of abducted children remains alarmingly high in a nation whose wrenching one-child policy and yawning income disparities have fueled demand for children particularly male heirs, trafficked by underground syndicates.
Human trafficking is widespread across China with kidnapping cases reported in numerous provinces across the country, according to witnesses and postings on missing child websites. Some children are abducted to serve as props for beggars and women are also kidnapped and sold into prostitution or as forced labor in factories.
While many parents are aware of the problem and have bolstered supervision of their kids in known blackspots, elsewhere, particularly in rural areas, a lack of publicity and media exposure means parents are unaware of the problem and often let their children play outdoors unsupervised.
Estimates are difficult to come by, though the China Ministry of Public Security reported investigating 2,566 potential trafficking cases in 2008.
“Due to lack of information and the difficulty of tracing children in a vast country such as China, very few children have actually been found,” Kirsten Di Martino, UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection in China told Reuters in a written response to questions.
The plight of such torn families is often made worse by indifferent, sometimes callous treatment by local police, lax child trafficking laws and poor enforcement.
“In one case, the traffickers even dared to abduct a child right inside a police station … this shows how rampant they are,” Zheng Chunzhong, a bakery owner in Dongguan whose son was kidnapped in 2003, told Reuters.
Since then, the slim, softly-spoken Zheng has pressured Dongguan authorities to do more to fight the problem, forming a local alliance of some 200 parents who held a recent protest march outside local government offices.
“There are too many cases of missing children. They (the police) are too embarrassed to let higher-level officials know,” he said during a lunch that was interrupted by a public security officer, a reminder of the police surveillance he says he’s long endured due to his outspokenness on the issue. Continued…
Read the rest of the story at http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE55S01B20090629
Trackback from your site.