The story appears on

Page B2

June 3, 2016

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Rescue efforts to find and save missing children

CHILDREN’S Day on June 1 is not only a day to give thanks for the children we have but also to think hard about those we don’t have anymore.

The issue of missing or abducted children has come to the forefront of public awareness. Two films about parents looking for lost children have been produced in the past two years: “Lost and Love,” starring Andy Lau, and “Dearest,” starring Zhao Wei.

One of the best-known non-government groups in the field of missing children is the website Baobeihuijia, or Baby Back Home. It has been in operation for nearly 10 years and coordinates more than 220,000 volunteers. The group claims to have reunited 1,537 children with their families.

A WeChat application called China’s Child Safety Emergency Response was also launched last year to disseminate information about missing children. Another website called Ruijiexunzi, started in 2015, offers free analysis of facial, vocal and eye to characteristics of submitted traces to see if they match relatives of missing children.

In Shanghai, the incidence of children missing or abducted is lower than in rural areas, but it’s hard to get a handle on actual numbers.

Cases of child abduction and trafficking have been decreasing since the Public Security Ministry launched a campaign in 2009 to raise public attention to the issue.

Since then, about 4,000 children across China have been found through a DNA database established by the ministry. However, that is estimated to be less than a 0.2 percent recovery rate.

On May 15, the ministry initiated a new program to disseminate information about missing children to the public via social media.

Xiong Bingqi, an education expert, says the government needs to go a step further and establish a national child-protection program to reduce the incidence of children going missing.

“One reason for such crimes is that many couples who can’t have children are often unable to adopt children legally,” he says.

In many rural areas, people have no idea about the procedures for adopting a child and aren’t aware that buying children is criminal.

“The government should provide an easier means for couples to adopt children and educate the public on the laws against child trafficking,” he says.

The public has certainly shown its willingness to aid efforts to find missing children and reunite them with their families.

Metro passengers often take photos of beggars carrying children and send them to police to determine if they are victims of abduction and child trafficking. The information is also spread online, though the success rate is generally poor.

Ye Weiwei, director of the Hope for Home program in the China Charities Aid Foundation for Children, lauds public interest in the cause and encourages everyone to become involved.

Last weekend, about 100 local high school students raised more than 61,000 yuan (US$9,384.60) at a charity bazaar to help families with missing children.

“From news reports, we learned that the parents of lost or abducted children often stop working to go look for their kids,” Wang Yinying, a senior at Wei Yu High School, tells Shanghai Daily. “They end up living in poverty during their search.”

Last year, seven students from the Middle School affiliated to Shanghai International Studies University raised funds online to print information about missing children on parcels. They took the idea from the missing children on milk cartons in the US.

“Chinese families do not drink as much milk as Americans, but online shopping is popular here and parcels are being sent to every corner of the country every day,” says Yan Yifan, director of the student program.

Yan says the work hasn’t been easy. Many non-governmental organizations refused to give them information about missing children. Baby Back Home finally released information about 30 children, and Ruijeixunzi is about to do the same.

“Although their activities are small in scale, it’s good to see such a sense of social responsibility in young people,” says Ye. “The lives of families with lost children is more miserable than most people can imagine. They suffer economically and psychologically. I’ve seen many families broken after losing their children.”

Volunteers of Baby Back Home say young people are helpful in spreading information across social media.

“Looking for missing children is difficult, and families always cherish every possible channel,” says a volunteer who identified herself only as Zhou Zhou. “A boy was found in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, several years ago after a post was seen on a relatively obscure website by a college student.”

Zhou says volunteers are usually divided into different functional groups, such as communicating with families or following up on clues. Each missing child is assigned a volunteer.

The search for the missing has produced some ugly sides. A real estate agency that asked children to turn to its outlets for help was roundly criticized by both public and police for giving wrong directions to children and parents.

“We usually suggest children stay put if they lose their parents because parents will naturally return to the places where they last had their children,” says Ye.

Some people also forward notices for missing persons randomly, without checking. Zhou says their intentions may be good, but scurrilous information can lead to heartbreak.

“Some notices are fake,” she notes. “We’ve received notices reporting lost children that are obviously fabricated.”

She also points out that some people try to play on sympathy for commercial purposes, or just use the missing person quests to nettle people they don’t like.

“Some telephone numbers left on the missing-children notices charge callers, while some false numbers are simply posted to harass a disliked person,” she says.

Zhang Wei, an information expert in Shanghai, warns about privacy issues when people submit private information to civic organizations.

“I can understand parents do not want to ignore any avenue when their children are lost,” he says. “But some private companies or organizations may collect the information without sensitivity to privacy issues.”

Zhou says some parents of missing children have fallen victim to swindlers after posting their telephone numbers online. Baby Back Home shows only the phone numbers of volunteers.

Both Ye and Zhou say parents need to keep a closer eye on their children when outdoors.

“Toddlers may be attracted by random interesting things or toys and food offered by strangers,” says Ye.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend