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5-Year-Old Girl Goes Missing in Yunnan, Is Found 9 Hours Later with Shaved Head and Changed Clothes

The little girl was saved from a child trafficker after her parents’ cry for help went viral on WeChat.




The story of a young girl who went missing and was found hours later, her appearance changed and seemingly subdued, has, once again, turned public attention to the problem of child trafficking in China.

On Saturday, August 25, grandmother Wang took her 5-year-old granddaughter to a nearby playground at around two o’clock in the afternoon in Xuanwei, a county-level city in the northeast of Yunnan Province. Within just thirty minutes, the calm afternoon turned into a nightmare as the little girl went missing in the blink of an eye.

A close family member told Chinese media outlet Sina News that another woman, who also had a little girl with her, was also at present at the playground. Because the two little girls were playing together, the grandmother was less vigilant, knowing that the other woman was also there.

When the little girl was gone without a trace, the grandmother immediately notified police. The worried family also spread the message about their missing child via Wechat, which soon went viral on chat groups all across town and nearby cities.

Photo of the little girl, spread on social media.

With the help of police and watchful citizens, it later became clear that the little girl was spotted nearby the playground at 14:41, leaving the area in a white mini-van together with a middle-aged woman and another child. Just fifteen minutes later, they would depart Xuanwei by train, getting off at the Qujing station, some 60 miles away, at around 16:30.

After receiving various calls from people who had spotted the girl, local police were able to catch the woman and find the child at midnight, in a hotel nearby the Qujing station. When the police caught the woman, it turned out she had already purchased train tickets to leave to Chongqing, a city 500 miles northeast of Qujing.

Upon receiving the news that his daughter was spotted in Qujing, the child’s father rushed to the city and was reunited with his daughter at the hotel.

Father and daughter reunited.

The woman was arrested on the spot and taken away by police. The other young girl allegedly is the woman’s own granddaughter and was used as a ‘decoy’ to kidnap the 5-year-old.

The suspected abductor is taken away by police in the early morning of August 26.

Just within nine hours after her disappearance, the girl had undergone a big transformation; her clothes were changed, her hair had been shaven off, and she seemed unusually quiet. She will reportedly get a medical check-up to check for traces of drugs or medication.

The father turned to social media to thank everyone for their help in rescuing his daughter from the hand of a “child trafficker.”

The woman is held in custody while police further investigate this case. According to a close family member source, quoted by Sina News, the suspect’s family originally is from Xuanwei, but she moved to Chongqing with her husband after getting married.

Mother and daughter together at the police station.

Child trafficking is a serious problem in China, where many children are trafficked every year. As Simon Denyer described in Washington Post last year, there are no reliable figures for how many children exactly go missing in China annually, with academic estimates going from 20,000 up to 200,000. Official statistics, however, have previously stated (2011) there are fewer than 10,000 kids abducted every year; in 2016, according to China’s Children’s Development Report (中国儿童发展纲要), there were just 618 cases nationwide.

Studies suggest that children trafficking in China is mainly done for domestic illegal adoption, altough children also also kidnapped to be sold in to the criminal market (Shen 2016, 66-67).

In 2014, when there was also heightened media attention for the problem of child trafficking in China, one state media report (CCTV) suggested that the market price for a boy was about 100k RMB (±$14.685) and 40-50k RMB (±$7000) for a girl.

On social media, netizens now warn parents that even women with children might be dangerous, as this story shows, and to keep an eye on children at all times.

Also read: “China’s Stolen Children – Why Babies Are Booming Business”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Shen, Anqi. 2016. “Female Perpetrators in Internal Child Trafficking in China: An Empirical Study.” Journal of Human Trafficking 2:1, 63-77, DOI: 10.1080/23322705.2016.1136537

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China Insight

The Day After the “3•21” Devastating Yancheng Explosion: 47 Dead, 640 Injured




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The enormous explosion at a chemical plant in Jiangsu’s Yancheng on March 21st has sent shockwaves through the country. While state media are focusing on the efforts of rescue workers, Chinese social media users are mourning the lives lost and are searching for those still missing.

One day after a devastating explosion occurred at a chemical plant in Yancheng city in Jiangsu, at the Xiangshui Eco-chemical Industrial Zone, the number of confirmed casualties and injured has now gone up to 47 dead, 90 critically injured, with around 640 requiring hospital treatment (issued Friday 19.00 local time).

The explosion happened on Thursday around 14.48 local time at the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Plant (天嘉宜化工厂). Images and videos of the explosion and its aftermath quickly spread on Weibo and other social media, showing the huge impact of the blast.

Site of the explosion.

Footage showed shattered windows from buildings in the area and injured persons lying on the streets. Other videos showed children crying and blood on the pavements. There are residential areas and at least seven schools located in the vicinity of the chemical plant, leading to injuries among residents and students due to glass that was allegedly “flying around.”

According to official sources on Weibo, a total of 930 firefighters worked side by side to control the fire.

Trending photo on Friday: exhausted firefighters.

The hashtag “Lining Up to Donate Blood in Xiangshui” (#响水市民自发排队献血#) also attracted some attention on Weibo, with state media reporting that dozens of local residents have donated blood to help the injured. On Thursday night, there were long lines at a local mobile blood donation bus.

What is quite clear from the Chinese media reports on the incident and the social media posts coming from official (authorities) accounts, is that there is an emphasis on the number of people who are helping out, rather than a focus on the number of people that were killed: there are at least 930 firefighters, 192 fire trucks, 9 heavy construction machinery, 200 police officers, 88 people rescued, 3500 medical staff, 200 people donating blood, etc. – the number of people joining forces to provide assistance in the area is overwhelming.

Meanwhile, there are desperate family members who are turning to social media in search of loved ones, posting their photos and asking people if they know anything about their whereabouts since the explosion.

While dozens of Weibo users are airing their grievances on what happened, there are also more personal stories coming out. The wife of the local factory worker Jiang is devastated; her husband of four years, father of one son, celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday. She received a message from her husband twenty minutes before the explosion occurred. He was one of the many people who lost their lives.

On Thursday, Chinese netizens complained that their posts about the Yancheng explosion were being taken offline, suggesting that information flows relating to the incident are being strictly controlled. “This is just too big to conceal,” one commenter said.

This is not the first time such an explosion makes headlines in China. In 2015, an enormous explosion at a petrol storage station in Tianjin killed 173 people and caused hundreds of people to be injured. Two years ago, an explosion at a Shandong petrochemical plant left 13 people dead.

By Manya Koetse 

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China Insight

Chinese Netizens’ Response to New Zealand Mosque Attacks




The shocking New Zealand mosque attack, killing at least 49 people, is making headlines worldwide. On Weibo, it is the top trending topic today. A short overview of some of the reactions on Chinese social media.

At least 49 people were killed and 20 wounded when an attacker opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. According to various media reports, one man in his late 20s had been arrested and charged with murder. Three other people, two men and one woman, have also been arrested in relation to the attack.

Footage of the brutal shootings, which was live-streamed by the gunman, has been making its rounds on social media. Although the videos are being taken down from Facebook and Twitter, people are still sharing the shocking images and footage on Weibo at time of writing.

The gunman, who has been named as the 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, reportedly also posted a 70-page manifesto online expressing white supremacist views.

On Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, the New Zealand mosque attack became a number one trending topic on Friday night, local time, with the hashtag “New Zealand Shootings” (#新西兰枪击案#) receiving at least 130 million views, and thousands of reactions.

“It takes the collaborate efforts of all people to work on a beautiful world, it just takes a few people to destroy it,” one Weibo user wrote.

“Extremism is incredibly scary,” others said. “I saw the livestreaming video and it’s too cruel – like a massacre from a shooter video game.” “I’m so shaken, I don’t even want to think of the panic these people must have felt.”

“I’ve seen the footage, and this is so horrible. It makes me want to cry. It’s a massacre.” Other commenters also write: “This is just so inhumane.”

One aspect that especially attracted attention on Chinese social media is that, according to many people posting on Weibo and Wechat, the main suspect expressed in his manifesto that the nation he felt closest to in terms of his “political and social values” is “that of the People’s Republic of China.”

Journalist Matthew Keys reportedly uploaded the main suspect’s manifesto, which was published on January 21, 2019. This article says that to the question about whether he was a fascist, Tarrant indeed wrote that “the nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.”

Some netizens wrote that, in mentioning the PRC, the shooter “also vilified China.” Others also said that the shootings definitely “do not correspond to the values of China.”

There are also dozens of Weibo users who blame Western media for the attacker’s comments on China corresponding to his own values. “What he appreciated is what Western media is propagating about our management of Muslims in Xinjiang,” some say: “He was influenced by the foreign media disseminating that we’re anti-Muslim.”

“He sympathized with the China portrayed by foreign media, not with the real China.”

“Western governments and media have demonized China for a long time, what they are making Western people believe about what China is, this is what the New Zealand shooter felt closest to in terms of his values,” one person wrote.

“These kinds of extreme-right terrorists would be destroyed in China,” others wrote.

Among all people expressing their disgust and horror at the Christchurch shootings, there are also those expressing anti-Muslim views and hatred, with some comment sections having turned into threads full of vicious remarks.

Then there are those criticizing the Muslims that are also commenting on Weibo: “The Muslims in China were quiet when it was about the [islamist extremist] attacks in Kunshan, but now that this massacre happened at the pig-hating mosque, they are all bemoaning the state of the universe and are denouncing terrorism.”

Among the thousands of reactions flooding in on Weibo, there are countless comments condemning those who turn the shocking attack into an occasion for making anti-Muslim or political remarks. “This is a terrorist attack. The victims are ordinary people. Why would you make malicious comments?”

One Weibo user simply writes: “The world has gone crazy.” “A tragic event. I hope the victims will rest in peace.”

By Manya Koetse 

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact ©2014-2018


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