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China’s Stolen Children – Why Babies Are Booming Business

In China, around 70,000 children are kidnapped and sold on the black market every year. As the internal trafficking of children has become a serious social problem, Weibo netizens are crying out for help.

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In China, around 70,000 children are kidnapped and sold on the black market every year. As the internal trafficking of children has become a serious social problem, Weibo netizens are crying out for help.

Human trafficking of children has a long history in the People’s Republic of China. Children have been abducted and traded as commodities for such a long time, that it is culturally embedded “to the point that is not universally viewed as criminal, but simply as a ‘tradition’” (Shen et al 2013, 32). Although child abductions died out in the 1960s, they re-emerged in the 1980s. Due to a general focus on international trafficking since the last two decades, kidnapping has largely been ignored for a long time within China. But now that an estimated 70,000 children are trafficked and sold on the black market every year, child trafficking has become a serious problem in Chinese society (2013, 32).

 

Sharing information on “How Not To Let Your Child Be Abducted”

 

‘Help Our Babies Get Home’ (#一起帮宝贝回家#) has become a hot topic on Sina Weibo. Netizens share their worries and views on China’s child abduction problem, directing their message not only at the government and legal enforcement, but also asking the general public for help, to avoid more children from going missing or being sold on the market.

According to an article shared on Weibo, there are about 200,000 lost children in China every year. Allegedly, only 0.1% of them are found by their parents. Behind these cold numbers are tragic tales of despair and poverty. Child trafficking often involves cases where children are being sold to families that cannot have a baby of their own. It also involves those cases where people prefer a baby boy, due to traditional dominant beliefs that only boys can support the family (as the Chinese idiom goes – 重男轻女 zhòngnánqīngnǚ: “to value males and belittle women”). Some children are sold to criminal groups, and are sent to the streets begging for money, often suffering abuse.

In the fight against child trafficking, social media are useful in a myriad of ways. Sites like Weibo are often directly used in the search for lost children, as a growing number of desperate parents put their lost children’s photo online in the hope of someone spotting them somewhere. They also fight child trafficking indirectly, by using social media to disseminate information on child abduction. Netizens on Sina Weibo have recently listed and shared some signs that may indicate a child was abducted. Another article also became trending, informing parents on “How Not To Let Your Child Be Abducted”.

But netizens have also used social media to plead for tougher sentences for child trafficking. Recently, netizens launched the topic of “Death Penalty for Child Abduction”, arguing that stricter legal enforcement could reduce the crime, gaining large numbers of online support.

According to China’s criminal laws, the punishment for child abduction is a prison sentence from 5-10 years, together with financial compensation. In severe cases, sentences can be over 10 years, or even lead to the death penalty; a principal offender of a 2015 child trafficking case in Yunnan was sentenced to death. The criminal group involved had trafficked over 200 babies. (Of them, 11 babies are yet to be brought home to their parents.)

Besides arguing for tougher punishment on the trafficker side, netizens are also asking for a more severe punishment on the buyer’s side. They believe heavier criminal charge on the buyer’s side will reduce the occurrence of unlawful adoptions. Current criminal law states that buyers will be charged no more than 3 years in prison. In most cases, buyers can avoid criminal charges if they have not abused the child, or if they are co-operative with the police. In 2013, for the first time, 7 buyers were legally charged 1-6 months in prison.

It is also suggested that the government should invest more money and effort on preventing child abduction. They should enforce ID registration and check when children are found on the streets begging for money, when they are being abused, or when they are not in school. Social care infrastructure needs to focus on these issues so that more children can benefit from it. Also, the government should work on a DNA database for lost children, in order to be able to bring them home in the future.

 

“If you want to make money, you should bear children
instead of raising pigs”

 

Trafficking in children has become a serious problem in China for different reasons. It is a “lucrative business” because on the supply side, it is very profitable and relatively easy (Shen et al 2013, 32). And on the demand side, there is a large demand for children. Why?

Firstly, poverty is the main reason for China’s great number of child abduction cases. According to Shenzhen statistics, 30% of the children victimized by trafficking were sold by their own parents due to financial hardship (2013, 35). In Yunnan, a “specialised child production base” was discovered where women gave birth to children in order to sell them – for some, having children and selling them is a way out of poverty. There is even a saying amongst farmers in Yunnan, saying: “If you want to make money, you should bear children instead of raising pigs” (35).

Chinese tradition is another reason, as the traditions of “the more children, the better life” and the prevailing preference for boys, are in conflict with China’s one-child policy. Although the policy has relaxed somewhat, it consequences are enormous , with many people abandoning girls and buying boys.

Lastly, loopholes in the Chinese law and ineffective law enforcement have made child trafficking a highly profitable business, with relatively low risks (2013, 35-36). With at least 70,000 children being trafficked every year, both the government and the people will have to take drastic measures to protect children and their parents from being victimized by China’s booming baby business.

By Fan Bai & Manya Koetse

 

Reference:
Shen, Anqi, Giorgios A. Antopoulos and Giorgios Papanicolaou. 2013. “China’s Stolen Children: Internal Child Trafficking in the People’s Republic of China.” Trends in Organized Crime 16(10): 31-48.

Image used: Daily Mail, Alamy, 2014.

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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About the author: Fan Bai is a freelance translator and writer. Born and raised in China, she is now based in the UK.

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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

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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

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

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China Insight

“Bolt from the Blue”: Mainland Tourists Can No Longer Independently Travel to Taiwan

Chinese tourists who were planning a solo trip to Taiwan are out of luck.

Manya Koetse

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Starting from August 1st, 2019, mainland residents can no longer individually travel to Taiwan for tourism purposes, and can only visit the island with a pre-approved travel group until further notice. The news has become top trending on Chinese social media.

After Chinese authorities announced on July 31st that China will stop issuing individual travel permits for mainland residents visiting Taiwan, the topic became one of the most-discussed topics on social media this week.

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism stated on its website that independent travel to Taiwan will be suspended from August 1st “in view of the current cross-strait situation.”

The brief statement announcing the ban.

State media outlet Global Times writes that the individual travel suspension is a result of “repeated provocative actions by the Tsai Ing-wen administration and secessionist forces on the island.”

Taipei Times explained the move as “another attempt to isolate Taiwan in the hope of spoiling President Tsai Ing-wen’s re-election chances.” Taiwan will hold its presidential elections in January 2020.

On Wednesday night local time, hashtags relating to the individual travel ban had gathered millions of views and comments on Sina Weibo.

 

ROC Restrictions for Mainland Travelers

 

Tourists from mainland China face restrictions when traveling to Taiwan, Republic of China (ROC), and must hold a travel permit to visit.

In July of 2008, PRC passport holders were first legally allowed to visit Taiwan for tourism purposes, but only if they joined a pre-approved group tour organized by a selected travel agency.

In 2011, these rules were relaxed after Taiwanese and mainland authorities agreed on a trial to allow mainland residents visiting Taiwan as individual tourists.

Under the terms of that ‘trial,’ mainland residents from 47 cities could apply for individual entry permits to Taiwan. These cities included places such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Harbin, Xiamen, and others.

With Wednesday’s statement, that program is currently put on hold. According to Focus Taiwan, this is the first time Beijing authorities have banned individual travelers from visiting Taiwan since June 2011.

Mainland tourists who want to visit Taiwan will now have to go back to joining tour groups again.

The Taiwanese tourism industry relies heavily on Chinese tourists. In 2015, the year before Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was elected, 4.2 million mainlanders visited the island, making up 40 percent of all tourists.

 

“A Bolt From the Blue”

 

On Weibo, the “Taiwan Individual Travel” account, an information channel for tourists, called the ban “a bolt from the blue” and said that it is unclear how long the restrictions will last: “We just hope that it is temporary.”

The post received over 11,500 comments from netizens, many of whom are confused about the ban and concerned on how it will affect their personal travel plans.

“I already received my permit, can I still go?” many wondered.

According to the China International Travel Service, mainland travelers with permits issued before August 1st can still go on their planned individual trips.

In a Weibo poll answered by more than 210,000 social media users, state media outlet China Daily asked people if they would still consider visiting Taiwan after the restrictions on individual travel permits.

The China Daily poll.

While more than 10 percent indicated they would be willing to join a tour group and still visit, a staggering 89,5 percent indicated they preferred free traveling and would not go at all.

“I will go once [the mainland and Taiwan are] unified,” some popular comments said.

Discussions over the ongoing Taiwan Strait Issue often flare up on Chinese social media. In August of 2018 for example, Taipei-born actress Vivian Sung ignited a storm of criticism on Weibo for a comment she made about Taiwan being her “favorite country.”

Last November, Taipei’s Golden Horse Film Festival was overclouded by controversy due to a speech about Taiwan independence (read here). Chinese state media responded to the issue by promoting the hashtags “China Can’t Become Smaller” and “Not Even a Bit Can Be Removed from China” (#中国一点都不能少#).

“Not Even a Bit Can Be Removed from China” propaganda images spread by People’s Daily.

Earlier this year, many Chinese netizens were furious to discover that the super popular Taiwanese online game Devotion contained secret insults toward President Xi Jinping.

Although big discussions on the current Taiwan travel ban are filtered on Chinese social media, there are still some smaller threads where Weibo users are speculating about the reasons behind the move.

Some blame Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, and see the latest travel measures as a way for Beijing to economically impact the island’s tourism industry to influence upcoming elections.

Others argue that the current ban is more of a “protective measure,” to make sure Chinese travelers who individually roam Taiwan will not be influenced by its election campaigns and media.

Then there are also those who think the entire issue is all about the ongoing Hong Kong protests.

Responses are overall very mixed. Although there are netizens supporting the solo travel ban, there are also those who think the measure will have an ‘opposite effect’ of that desired.

Although Weibo is mostly popular in mainland China, the social media platform is also used by Taiwanese netizens.

“I heard many of our Taiwanese online friends are happy to hear the news [about the travel restrictions]. Finally, this is something that cross-strait netizens can agree on!” one popular Beijing blogger (@地瓜熊老六) writes, sharing an online meme that shows Taiwanese scenery with the line ‘Welcome to Taiwan, without Chinese.’

Still, there are also many Weibo users who want to visit Taiwan by themselves and are just concerned about the practicalities: “So, when do you think I will be able to visit again?”

“I was just preparing to go and visit Taiwan,” one commenter writes, posting a crying emoji: “Nevertheless, I will still support China in this.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Featured image: Photo by Vernon Raineil Cenzon

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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