Dozens of Chinese children reportedly kidnapped, sold

Date: 2000-01-15

Police arrest 28 suspected of membership in ring; search begins for parents of kids

The Associated Press

One child is photographed crying.

The faces of the other 34 children - ages 1 to 7 - mostly stare seriously or wistfully at the camera. Only one knows his name: Little Weiwei. Police hope the public can tell them more.

"Mama, where are you?" reads the headline in the Legal Daily , one of several newspapers that ran photos and stories Friday about a case that highlights China's growing problems with the trafficking in human lives.

The 35 children were among dozens believed to have been kidnapped since 1995 in the impoverished province of Guizhou. Police asked the papers for help in searching for parents of the rescued children after police arrested 28 people suspected of being members of the kidnapping ring in southwestern China.

The suspects, Chen Qifu and his extended family, are accused of taking the children and selling them for up to $1,200 each to families in the relatively affluent province of Guangdong.

The human trade has flourished as gangs capitalize on demographic trends that have left many rural families desperate for brides and for male children. Guangdong villagers who were unwilling to give up the children they had bought sometimes surrounded police to try to prevent them from taking them away, the China Youth Daily reported.

The break in the Guizhou case occurred when a couple saw Mr. Chen allegedly trying to kidnap their son by coaxing him into a minivan. A group of onlookers stopped Mr. Chen from driving away and took him to a police station, the China Youth Daily and the Legal Daily reported.

Interrogations of Mr. Chen and his family helped police identify 22 suspects and rescue 17 children Dec. 24. They arrested six more suspects Thursday and collected 18 additional children, the reports said.

All but one of the children were boys. Their ages ranged from 1 to 7 years, but most were toddlers.

The newspapers carried snapshots of all the children, along with phone numbers of a newspaper hotline and for the Guizhou police.

Many of the children, now in a child welfare facility in Guizhou's provincial capital, Guiyang, were thought to be those of migrant workers who might have moved on since their children were kidnapped.

Police in Guiyang said Friday that they had received numerous calls, including some calling about the same child.

Population-control policies that limit families to one or two children have left many families desperate for sons, who are expected to work the fields and eventually support their parents. In some cases, babies are kidnapped when only a few weeks old.

The preference for sons also has led to infanticide, selective abortions and abandonment of girl babies.

As a result, there is a significant imbalance in the gender ratio in the countryside, with 120 men for every 100 women, a government report said last year.

It has become equally common for young women to be kidnapped and sold as brides to rural farmers.


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