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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.

Manya Koetse



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

From Hong Kong Protests to ‘Bright Future’ – The Top 3 Most Popular Posts on Weibo This Week

These are the most-read posts on Weibo this week.

Manya Koetse



The three most-read posts on Weibo over the past week – an overview by What’s on Weibo.

The protests in Hong Kong have been dominating Chinese social media throughout August, and the past week has been no different. Two out of three most-read posts on Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media platforms, were about Hong Kong this week.

A wrap-up:


#1 Hundreds of Hong Kong Taxi’s Flying Chinese National Flag

Image shared by CCTV on their Weibo account.

While Hong Kong is gearing up for the 13th consecutive weekend of mass anti-government demonstrations, there are no signs of the protests fizzling out any time soon.

The Hong Kong protests started in March and April of this year against an extradition bill that would allow local authorities to detain and extradite people wanted in mainland China, and have intensified over the past weeks.

Although authorities in mainland China initially remained quiet on the topic, the Hong Kong demonstrations have been dominating the trending streams on China’s popular social media platforms for all of August.

Through videos, online posters, and slogans, Chinese state media have propagated a clear narrative on the situation in Hong Kong; namely that a group of “separatists” or “bandits” are to blame for the riots that aim to “damage public security” in Hong Kong and are “dividing the nation.”

News outlets such as People’s Daily and CCTV are sharing many stories that emphasize the One China principle and praise the Hong Kong police force. Those voices in Hong Kong speaking up for the police force and condemning protesters using violence have been amplified in Chinese media.

One story that became the number one trending post on Weibo this week is that of dozens of Hong Kong taxi drivers hanging the Chinese national flag from their cars (video).

On August 23, the taxi drivers reportedly formed a rally against violence at Tsim Sha Tsui, waving the flags and putting up signs saying “I love HK, I love China.”

The hashtag “500 Hong Kong Taxi’s Hanging up Chinese National Flags” (#香港500辆的士挂上国旗#), hosted by CCTV, attracted over 700 million views on Weibo. The CCTV post reporting on the event received over half a million likes and 47000 shares.

The commenters mostly praise the Hong Kong taxi drivers for “standing up for Hong Kong” and flying the Chinese flag.

In English-language media, it has mostly been Chinese state media reporting on the rally. Xinhua, Women of China, ECNS, and Global Times all reported on the August 23 peace rally.

CNN only shortly reported how “a number of taxis have been spotted driving around the city displaying Chinese flags — something that has not happened on this scale during previous protests” (link).


#2 ‘Bright Future’ Title Song for Upcoming Movie ‘The Moon Remembers All’

Over 266.000 Weibo users have been sharing a post by Chinese actor Li Xian (李现) on the title track for the new Chinese movie The Moon Remembers All or River on a Spring Night (Chinese title: 春江花月夜).

The upcoming movie itself is a very popular topic on Weibo recently, attracting 430 million views on its hashtag page alone. The movie just finished shooting and will be released in 2020.

The song titled “Bright Future” (前程似锦) is sung by Taiwanese singer Chen Linong (陈立农) and Li Xian, who are both the leading actors in the fantasy movie. The song was released on August 29.

The Moon Remembers All is produced by Edko Films and directed by Song Haolin (宋灏霖), also known for Mr. Zhu’s Summer (2017) and Fatal Love (2016).


#3 Interview with Hong Kong Pro-Beijing LegCo Member Junius Ho

The third most popular Weibo post of this week comes from Xia Kedao (侠客岛), a popular commentator account for the People’s Daily Overseas Edition, and concerns a live broadcasted interview with Hong Kong lawmaker and Legislative Council (LegCo) member Junius Kwan-yiu Ho.

Junius Ho (何君尧) is known as being ‘pro-Beijing’ and stirred controversy earlier this summer when a viral video showed him shaking hands with men wearing white T-shirts who allegedly were linked to the mob attacking people at the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.

Xia Kedao describes Junius Ho as a “straightforward” politician who “speaks out for justice” and denounces “reactionaries.”

In the August 28 interview, that was live-streamed on Sina Weibo and later also written up, the Hong Kong legislator discussed the background of the protests.

Ho argues that the people with “ulterior motives” used the extradition bill for their own power struggle, distorting and exaggerating the facts behind the regulation.

The politician also partly links the protests to a “weak national consciousness” in Hong Kong due to its education curriculum and says that there have not been enough legal consequences for those participating in illegal activities and riots.

Thousands of commenters on Weibo write that they appreciate Ho for speaking out against the “pro-independence riot youth” and praise him for his “deep understanding” of mainland China.

By now, Junius Ho, who is also active on Weibo with his own account, has gathered more than half a million fans on his page.

By Manya Koetse

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China Insight

Exchange Student to Be Deported from China for Harassing Young Woman at University

An exchange student studying at the Hebei University of Engineering has been expelled and will soon be deported after harassing a female student.

Manya Koetse



An exchange student from Pakistan who was studying at the Hebei University of Engineering (河北工程大学) has been expelled and detained after harassing a female student at the same university.

The incident, that is attracting much attention on Chinese social media this week, adds to the wave of recent controversies over the behavior and status of overseas students in mainland China.

On July 31, a female student at the Hebei university filed a police report against a Pakistani student who allegedly harassed her and attempted to forcefully kiss her and touch her breasts.

Screenshots of a supposed WeChat conversation between the exchange student and the female student, in which the man apologizes and claims the interaction is a “requirement for friendship,” are being shared on social media.

According to various reports, the police initially tried to mediate between the two students, which the female student refused.

Together with the school principal, the police then further investigated the case and found ample evidence of harassment after examining the university’s surveillance system.

On August 1st, the Hebei University of Engineering announced that they had expelled the student and that he will be deported from China. The announcement received more than 14,000 reactions and 150,000 ‘likes’ on Weibo.

The student is now detained at the local Public Security Bureau and is awaiting his deportation.

A photo of two officers together with a man in front of the detention center in Handan is circulating on social media in relation to this incident.

At time of writing, the hashtag page “Exchange Student to Be Deported after Molesting Female Student” (#留学生猥亵女学生将被遣送出境#) has been viewed over 310 million times on Weibo.

Among thousands of reactions, there are many who praise the Hebei university for supporting the female student after she reported the exchange student to the police.

“This may not be the best university, but at least they stand behind their students!”, some say, with others calling the university “awesome.”

Many say that the Hebei university should serve as an example for other Chinese universities to follow, with Shandong University being specifically mentioned by Weibo users.

Shandong University was widely criticized earlier this summer for its “buddy exchange program,” which was accused of being a way to arrange Chinese “girlfriends” for male foreign students.

Another incident that is mentioned in relation to this trending story is that of an exchange student who displayed aggressive behavior towards a Chinese police officer in July of this year. The student was not punished for his actions, which sparked anger on Chinese social media.

By Manya Koetse

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