China Exclusive: Finding a way home

09:33, November 17, 2009      

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When Wang Bangyin tried to hug his son, the three-year-old boy dodged behind a policeman and cried in fear.

With eyes welling with tears and face twisted in pain, Wang sobbed silently. His life had been a nightmare since the boy was abducted two years ago.

"I dreamed of him everyday and cannot believe that I could really see him again," said the 51-year-old man.

Wang's nightmare started on Oct. 26, 2007 when all of his three sons (two older stepsons) disappeared suddenly. The three boys, aged 15, 6 and eight-month-old respectively, were abducted while playing outside Wang's rented house in Guiyang, capital of southwest Guizhou Province.

The boys were grabbed by several men and carried away by a motorcycle. On hearing people's cry, Wang's wife rushed out of house and chased more than 300 meters only to see the motorcycle disappearing in distance.

After calling the police, Wang and his relatives embarked onto a journey searching for the kids. They searched all the bus and railway stations in Guiyang, and spent almost all their meagre saving on printing and posting missing notices in the city.

One month later, police found Wang's eldest stepson, who was sick and thus was abandoned by the child traffickers. But the boy had no idea of the whereabouts of his two brothers.

Wang had basically stopped working after the boys were abducted. "I had no mood for working. Whenever I saw kids of similar age of my boy, I couldn't help crying," said Wang, who used to make a living by working at construction sites.

In Guiyang, Wang's misery was not unique. In the Nanming district of Guiyang alone, 17 children have been reported missing since 2007.

Local police said that the mountainous Guizhou Province is a transfer stop in the underground child trafficking network.

"Most of the kids were abducted from southwestern provinces like Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan, and sold to the north or east provinces like Fujian, Shandong and Hebei," said Xu Jun, an officer with the Nanming branch of the Guiyang police bureau.

In China, many people, especially those in rural areas, still prefer boys to girls so as to carry on the family name.

There was no statistics as how many children were abducted every year, but experts estimated that the figure could be between30,000 and 60,000, according to earlier Xinhua reports.

Since April 9 this year, China's Public Security Ministry has launched a campaign to crack down child abduction and trafficking. A total of 2,169 children have been rescued as of Oct. 28 and 1,358 traffickers were arrested.

Xu said many kidnappers were middle-aged men and their targets were mostly children of the migrant workers living in the suburban areas.

Most of the migrant workers were busy making a live and unfamiliar with the new environment in the city. "Besides, growing up in the countryside, they are used to letting their kids play outside alone, which gives criminals chances," Xu said.

For police, finding the abducted kids is not the end of their mission. It is the beginning of another -- helping the children find way home.

As most of the children were abducted at young ages, they usually had no memory of their birth parents.

To help the children find home, the Public Security Ministry set up a webpage on Oct. 28 on its website, and released the information of 60 abducted children with their pictures, names, ages, time of being abducted, present location and contacts. The ministry promised to continue to release information of more rescued children.

DNA samples of the kids and the parents who lost their children were collected and stored in a database. Only after DNA comparison could parents be allowed take away their kids.

Wang Bangyin found his son only one day after the webpage was set up.

"I received a phone call from local police asking me to identify my boy," he recalled.

"I recognized him at the first sight...I could never forget his face and the scar on his face which was left after he bumped his head against a nail when he was a baby..." said Wang. DNA test also confirmed the boy was his son.

While overjoyed with his son's return, Wang also felt a little bit hurt by the boy's coldness to him.

According to local police, abducted children could be sold three or four times. Price for a child ranges from 30,000 to 80,000 yuan (4,411.8 to 11,764.7 U.S. dollars) each.

Wang's son had been sold for five times before being rescued by the police. The boy had been living with his new family for about two years when being found. When he was taken away by the police, both the boy and his "new parents" cried.

"Such experiences brought serious psychological trauma to the kids," police officer Xu said.

According to a teacher with the Guiyang children welfare center where the rescued kids stayed before their birth parents were found, most of the children showed signs of anxiety and fear.

"Sometimes the kids would fidget and smash things. Their appeared apathetic and had little facial expressions even when they were playing games," said the teacher, who declined to be named.

Afraid of losing his son again, Wang said he had decided to leave the city and move back to his hometown village.

"I do not know how long it would take for my boy to recover. But I am glad that at least he is back home. And I will never lose him again," he said.

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