Micro blogs save abducted children

08:36, February 15, 2011      

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Peng Gaofeng hugs his son, kidnap victim Wenle, amid emotional scenes upon the boy's arrival at Shenzhen airport on Feb 10. Wenle was rescued three years after his abduction thanks to information provided by bloggers. Provided to China Daily

Yi Xiwei ran into two women begging with two children on the street in Chongqing on Sunday. The 24-year-old marketing director stopped and reached into her pocket. Instead of taking out her wallet, Yi grabbed her cell phone and snapped a photo of the children.

When she got home, she quickly uploaded the photo to the Internet and wrote details such as time and place into a weibo (micro blog), the Chinese counterpart of Twitter, hoping someone could verify whether they were abducted children.

The Twitter campaign in China to find children started on Jan 25, the day a social scientist posted a thread. Yu Jianrong, a rural expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, called on his Twitter followers to upload photographs of child beggars and compare them with those of missing children.

Micro-blogging in China then demonstrated its immense power of mobilization. In three weeks, more than 220,000 people joined the campaign, six missing children have been found, and one family has been reunited.

With so many people taking part in the campaign, the rescue of abducted children has become a priority in China. Deputies to the two sessions - annual conferences of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, beginning in the first week of March - pledged they would tender proposals on the issue.

Various government agencies have gotten involved. The police went on the micro blog, followed the campaign and rescued the six children. Civil affairs authorities arranged children's DNA tests to aid in identification. Several non-governmental organizations have also launched projects to help begging children.

Here is how a thread evolved into the largest Twitter campaign so far in China, one year after micro-blogging - messages of 140 or fewer characters - appeared in the country.

"Micro-blogging may help put an end to the phenomenon of using children to beg," said Yu Jianrong, who initiated the campaign. "It also adds an immense social pressure against trafficking of children."

Statistics from the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs show that as many as 1.5 million children are beggars, most of them forced into it. And a large number of them were abducted.

About 3,000 abductions of women and children are reported every year, according to the Ministry of Public Security. Yet many parents do not find the children, even with the help of police.

By Li Li, China Daily
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