Saturday, September 29, 2007

190 children abducted every day in China

China's one-child policy leads to all kinds of social breakdown and criminal behaviour. Massive use of sex selection abortion; female infanticide and wife abduction; and now abduction of boy children.

And not only does the government provoke this practice through its one-child policy, when the child is abducted, the state-sponsored institutions such as the police and the media are virtually no help. And what's even worse, the government makes it hard for you to search!

Li and Lung Chen are determined to do anything to get their son back, but their options are severely limited. The media is too close to the government to be used as a tool, and even joining a parents' support group must be done in secret. They saved up US$80 to put Chen Jie's picture on a poker set that features missing children on every card; in their desperation, they're gambling on gamblers. Putting up missing posters of Chen Jie, his eyes staring out brightly even from a photocopy, was risky because it's forbidden (the authorities aren't keen to have reminders of missing children on show), but they did it. Hiring a private detective cost money, but they did that, because the detective has a reputation for successful rescue missions. Speaking to Westerners about their plight was downright dangerous, but they've done that, too.


It's hard to render yourself unnoticeable as a Westerner with a camera in China, but he and his team tried to move through the country unseen. The Chinese authorities, loath to let such stories out, are extremely vigilant, and getting people to talk about their experiences of having a child stolen is virtually impossible. The air hangs thick with the threat of official reprisals and punishment. One potential interviewee whose son was stolen was visited by the secret police the day after a researcher had been to ask him questions. He backed out, too scared to commit to camera what he felt, too frightened to enlist the help of outsiders in such a close-knit community, where anything unusual gets back to officials - apart from, it would seem, the identity of kidnappers.

Oh, and another ridiculous product of China's one-child policy:

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 seems that notwithstanding the one-child policy and the law against sex-selection abortion, they will get their male child.

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