WRIC Report on Child Trafficking in China

WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN CHINA                                                                                                    2011


Child-trafficking has become a severe social problem in China. It has become an extensive and lucrative illegal trade. The government’s One Child Policy is the root cause of the problem which directly and indirectly created and stimulated the “market” for trafficked children. Criminal groups made up mainly of members of the same family (*a) go into vast areas of the Chinese countryside and kidnap or barter children and young women for sale in other areas. 10 years ago, the children were mainly sold to coastal provinces like Fujian and Guangdong. The buying market has quickly expanded north. The areas where the children came from have also expanded from the southwest inland mountain areas to the northwest and Central Plains areas.


The Chinese government has a longstanding policy of secrecy over statistics of the missing persons. It has never published the real numbers of the nation-wide child-trafficking problem. As the problem increased in severity, under pressure from foreign governments and NGO’s, to mend social stability and its imago, the Chinese government initiated five separate “operations” combating human trafficking. During each “operation”, public security organs would disclose relevant data. However, these data were incomplete and unorganized. Little cooperation existed between the central and regional governments and different departments. After “processing” through different government agencies, the data on missing children became even more convoluted and could not give accurate figures on the missing and trafficked population. Civil society efforts to compile data have been hampered by the expanse of the country and lack of resources. However it is possible for WRIC to give a rough estimate from our own data and governmental figures.



1. Data on Rescued Children 

According to the Ministry of Public Security, since the April 2009 “Battle to Establish the National Anti-trafficking DNA Database”, the nation’s public security organs took in blood samples of suspected trafficked children. As of September 20, 2010, 130,000 samples had been collected from the children (* b), along with blood samples of 34, 000 parents of missing children. 813 abducted children were found to be matches in this way. That is, only 6.2% in the database matched the sampled parents. 93.8% remained unclaimed.   July 1,2005, Xinxiang, Henan police rescued 35 babies, only 1 was reclaimed, 34 children did not find the birth parents, accounting for 97% of the total;   Ministry of Public Security published in 2009 the first rescue of 60 children (* d). 55 so far could not find their birth parents, accounting for 92% of the total;   On June 3,2009, Wuhan Railway Police uncovered the baby trafficking gang headed by Yu Li Hong of Yunnan Province. 46 infants were rescued. None were claimed, 100%;   Shanwei police early in 2010 detected a serious case of baby trafficking, rescued 26 children, of which 11 remain unclaimed, 58% of the total;   On September 5,2010, Anxi, Fujian police rescued 41 trafficked children. None were claimed, 100% of the total.   In a small village in Putian, Fujian, WRIC helped reunite three women who were trafficked as young girls with their birth families. None of the three were in governmental databases. Even more shockingly, in a village in the same municipality, almost every family had bought children from traffickers. Local police and census takers always looked the other way. Neither did they help the suddenly appearing children in searching for their birth family in any way. From these instances, it is clear that child trafficking is far graver than the 130,000 number of the Public Security Ministry or even the 6.2% reclamation rate of its database suggested.


2. Civil Society Activities in Child Search and Rescue

In Mainland China, child trafficking first occurred in the southwestern provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan. It has now spread to nearly all provinces and autonomous regions, with the possible exception of Tibet. From databases maintained by civilian non-governmental websites, Henan has become the province where the problem of missing children has become the most severe. Numbers in Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi, Shaanxi, Hebei provinces are also skyrocketing. In the December, 2010 Huijiawang (Return Home Net) activities in North China, it was discovered that kidnapping of girls had increased markedly in the last two to three years. In regions of Henan, Hebei, Shandong, Shanxi and Shaanxi, rural villagers bought child brides in large numbers. The price for such trafficked children had also increased from several thousand yuan in the past to twenty or thirty thousand. Girls in their teens and young women were also targets of kidnapping.


The main method by which parents of missing children search for their lost children is to travel to various places with their own resources, if possible with the help of extended family. The parents often post notices of their missing children on websites and major train stations. The effort quite often exhausts the resources and life savings of the families.   The Return Home network (www.crchina.org), affiliated with Women’s Rights in China has maintained contacts with various regional organizations of missing children’s parents since its founding in 2008. More than 4,000 families looking for their missing children have registered on the website. In three years, with two grants from All Girls Allowed, crchina.org organized several large scale anti-trafficking activities in severely affected provinces. During these activities, the Return Home Net tried to avoid all harassment by local police, gathered representatives from various provinces for parental victims for conferences and invited attorneys for legal advice (*d). Convoys plastered with pictures of missing children traveled through eight provinces and held educational exhibits in markets and towns, attracting widespread attention from the public. Although the expense was heavy, through the crchina.org platform, parent volunteers from dozens of provinces helped many trafficking victims to reunite with their birth families. Mr. Guo Gangtang of Shandong and Mr. Chen Fuyu of Guizhou succeeded in uniting several families through their travels although they could not find their own missing children.


However, the strength of the civil society efforts was thin. The parent volunteers were under tremendous financial pressure and harassment of local governments. In September, 2008, more than 40 parents petitioned China Central Television to tell their stories. They were arrested and taken under guard back to their localities for further detainment. In January, 2010, three vehicles and representatives from five provinces looking for missing children were detained in Taiyuan, Shanxi.

January, 2010, a parent volunteer is picking up posters torn by local police. In the background, more policemen are chasing away volunteers.
Detainment for over 20 hours in the garage of the local police station.
 In addition, parents who were interviewed by Hong Kong and foreign media have been under constant police
surveillance. They were banned from all travel on pain of immediate arrest. The Zhen family of Zhanjiang, Guangdong is still under
such treatment.

3. Civil Society Missing Children Websites 

As the Chinese government had not set up dedicated agencies to find missing children and child trafficking is a 
constantly growing problem, parents looking for missing children spontaneously organized provincial child rescue 
leagues and websites. 

At present, dozens of missing children sites exist in China. Each site is registering information on missing or abducted 
children information. But many are charging fees for registration, some are semi-governmental, such as 
Baobeihuijiawang, which has become the only government approved NGO in the area. Independent, non-profit websites 
like crchina.org of WRIC are rare. Nevertheless, many parents anxious to find their children are willing to pay to publish 
their children’s information. With the help of the websites and their users, there have been some cases of success. So far, 
these separate databases range between 10,000 to 15,000 each. Some information is overlapping, but most of these 
cases are outside of the government registrations. 
An anti-trafficking exhibit organized by WRIC in Fujian, 2009.
Volunteers educating the public in Fujian.
The missing data are caused by four main factors: 
a. A large number of trafficking occurred in the rural areas. There is often no photo of the child, let alone the funds to 
publish them online. Even the contact with local volunteers, the most that could be gathered was text information. 
On WRIC’s crchina.org, 3,000 missing children had have no photos.

b. One -child policy and gender discrimination inhibit rural families from reporting missing children, particularly girls. Many 

families prefer boys. The kidnapping of a girl obviates heavy government fines for “illegal” births and opens the opportunity for

additional children.

c. Many families give up after long periods of their little loved ones’ disappearances. WRIC volunteers found two women in Putian, Fujian whom they were kidnapped 24 years ago from Guizhou. Neither of them were in the case files of Guizhou police or

government. Their parents never officially registered their disappearance with the police and gave up long before. Rural residents

were often less educated and reluctant to seek help from government. 

d. Families sometimes break up after the child had gone missing. Both parents might hide their past history after 
remarrying and might not recognize their missing children even if found. The most recent case happened in January, 2011. 
Wong Qionghua of Huizhou, Guangdong found her birth parents through WRIC volunteers. Her siblings even recognized 
her voice in the telephone. But her mother categorically refused to recognize her. Ultimately it was discovered that she 
had been sold by her mother, who feared any more complications if she were to return.

4. Street Children As Entertainment

           Large numbers of street children are inconsistent with China’s growing national wealth, negatively impact 
its international image and tourism, and could also serve as a source of future social unrests.
           There are 610 medium-sized cities in China. If there are 100 begging children per city, there are 60,000 children. There are at least 1000 begging children in each of the 50 large cities. In medium and large cities in China alone,
there would be more than 100,000 begging homeless children. Combined with those who live in the vast countryside and rural towns,
the national total could be as high as a million. 
           Most of these children are trafficked, many under the control of criminal organizations. During the Spring Festival in 
February 2011, the Central People’s Broadcasting Station uncovered a large scale, long running child trafficking ring that 
forced children to beg. The child victims were under the control of adult organizations in systematic begging operations. 
All profit belonged to the head of the organization. Even crueler was the artificial disabling of some of the children to elicit 
more sympathy from the audience and more profit for their handlers.

Recently, Professor Yu Jianrong of the Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Rural Development, started the blog 
‘photo rescue child beggars’ which attracted attention from web users in the country and various law enforcement agencies.
In less than a week, users submitted photos of 24,000 begging children to the blog.
5. Government Orphanages in the Child-Trafficking Trade 

Some of government orphanages also engaged in the child trafficking trade. They took in “illegal” births and abandoned 
infants and are profited by domestic and foreign adoptions, collecting high fees. Zhenyuang County orphanage in Guizhou 
province gained more than 110,000 yuan through such adoptions. However, media investigations discovered that the 
“orphans” were “illegal” babies kidnapped from rural families by government Birth Planning officials. A girl who was 
“donated” in such a way would offset the heavy government fines. A foreign “adoption” cost from $20,000 to $30,000
for American families.
The newborn girl of this farm family in Zhenyuan, Guizhou was taken by government orphanage in lieu of a heavy fine.
           More shockingly, since 2002, six government orphanages in Hunan had been buying babies in large numbers from 
human traffickers in order to profit from later foreign adoptions. In 2005, Hengyang orphanage alone bought 78 
infants from traffickers.
           Beijing Sun Village (Taiyangcun) is an orphanage that takes in children whose parents had been incarcerated. 
It was founded by a former female prison guard and once hailed as a model of Chinese charities. WRIC 
investigations in 2007, 2008 and 2009 revealed that girls who lived in Beijing Sun Village had been raped and 
abused. Some infants who entered the orphanage disappeared in days without leaving any trace in internal 
registries or its website.
This girl entered Beijing Sun Village in June, 2007. She disappeared in 4 days.
This three-year-old child, photographed in Beijing Sun Village on October 18, 2007, disappeared a week later.
One of four guard dogs at Beijing Sun Village in 2009 before they were exposed by the media. 
The administrators said they were used to prevent children from escaping. 
Unexplained is why homeless children would want to escape their orphanage.
           In May 2011, the Birth Planning agency in Longhui County, Shaoyang City, Hunan province abducted more than a 
dozen “illegal” above-quota infants. Their surnames were all changed to Shao in the county orphanage. Some had 
been sold for adoption overseas at the price of 3000 US dollars a head.
Yang Libing, wife and daughter Yang Ling in a family portrait before Yang Ling was abducted by Birth Planning officials.
           According to incomplete statistics, since the 1990’s, about 120,000 Chinese children had been adopted by 90,000 
foreign families from 17 countries. 70,000 of these children went to the United States. This is one factor that 
contributed to the difficulty of finding missing children.

           The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s DNA database registered samples from 130,000 children suspected of 
being trafficking victims. Most of these were from those who were rescued in the last two years. The DNA samples 
from families looking for their missing children only numbered 34,000. 3/4 of the families had stopped 
looking or lost hope. In the last ten years, there were 500,000 abducted children in China. In the decade of the 90’s, 
when child trafficking was about twice as prevalent, the number could easily reach in the millions.
           China’s aging population, mandatory family planning policy, gender imbalance and other factors created incentives 
for the human trafficking trade. Tempted by the prospect of strong profits, criminal groups have become more 
organized and professionalized, their activities hardly impacted by the government’s superficial measures which never 
addressed the root cause of the problem. Without more dedicated and more effective involvement of law enforcement,
in the foreseeable future human trafficking would only expand and continue to destabilize Chinese society.  
(Translated and abridged from an original report in Chinese. www.wrchina.org)
* a. A streamlined family trafficking operation 
Family-based criminal trafficking group kidnapped 49 infants in three provinces for four years.
* b. Xinhua News Agenc: 813 matches from DNA anti-trafficking database
* c. Ministry of Public Security 
 * d. “Return Home Net” Report on activities in northern China 
 * e. The Southern Weekend: Guizhou Zhenyuan orphanage baby trafficking investigation 
http://news.qq.com/a/20090714/000281.htm http://406465685.blog.163.com/blog/static/4100725420096321337916/ 

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