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February 18, 2011

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Parents trawl Metro searching for abducted child

DISTRAUGHT parents and police are searching Shanghai's Metro trains for a beggar girl who resembles a child abducted from northwest China's Gansu Province.

The parents of the missing girl had their hopes raised recently when they saw a photograph of a young beggar posted by a Shanghai blogger and were struck by her likeness to their daughter.

If the search reunites the family, it will be the first success in the city for a national microblog campaign to rescue children abducted and forced to work as beggars.

The child's parents arrived at Shanghai this week, accompanied by Gansu police. Peng Jucheng, the father of the missing girl, named Feifei, said: "I will do everything I can until I find the child in the photograph."

Feifei was four years old when she went missing in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu, in November 2009.

Her family has reportedly spent 30,000 yuan (US$4,554) searching for her.

A possible breakthrough came when they saw a photograph of a child beggar published in a Gansu newspaper recently. The picture, originally posted online, shows the child kneeling on a Shanghai Metro Line 7 train.

"She really looks like my daughter," Peng said yesterday, looking at the pale face of the girl in the picture, before resuming his search on the city's Metro trains.

The snapshot, which has spread among microbloggers, has resulted in city police help.

But it also raised concerns that if it is the missing child, her abductors may now hide her away.

The campaign to rescue abducted children was launched last month by Yu Jianrong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Yu asked the public to post photographs of child beggars online.

Yu's blogs gathered hundreds of thousands of followers and have led to six children being reunited with their families.

However, the campaign has also proved controversial, with opponents claiming that child beggars in some parts of the country "vanished" after their photographs were published.

Their disappearance has raised fears that the children may have been hidden, disfigured or killed by traffickers.

Shanghai police have also pointed out that far from being abducted, the vast majority of child beggars in the city are with their parents.

Legal experts have also questioned whether the photographic campaign violates the children's privacy.

Meanwhile, Peng continues to seek his daughter. As the Metro system closed for the night he trudged out, weary and downbeat. "I will get up earlier tomorrow," said Peng.


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