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Heightened public concerns raise hope for parents of stolen children

2014-11-20 13:09 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

Feng Jianlin has never lost hope that one day he will be reunited with his daughter, who has been missing for six years.

"As more and more people join the campaign to trace lost children nationwide, [I realize] I am not alone," he said.

The issue of child abduction has once again come to the fore as Universal Children's Day falls on Thursday.

In recent years, aside from the government's efforts, the development of online social networks in China has mobilized the grassroots to join the campaign.

Feng, 40, lives in north China's Shanxi Province. On March 20, 2008, his daughter, who was nine years old at the time, went to school after lunch and never came home.

Police concluded that the girl was snatched.

"It was like looking for a needle in a haystack," Feng explained, "I put notices in newspapers and on television and distributed flyers on the streets. But, all my efforts seemed in vain."

However, Feng says the Internet was a sort of silver lining, as it made it possible for people from different parts of the country to join the search.

In 2010, Feng set up a website to connect with volunteers, police and the media in an effort to locate his daughter and other missing children. So far it has returned 14 children to their families.

Yu Jianrong, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, set up an account on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo at the beginning of 2011. It was this account that really exposed the cause to the nation

In the hope that parents would recognize their children, he asked the public to post photographs of child beggars.

The account has 34,469 followers.

One success story is that of Peng Gaofeng. Peng's son was snatched in March 2008 in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, but the child was spotted in February 2011 by a man who had seen the boy's picture circulating on Weibo.

The website baobeihuijia.com, which means "baby back home", was established in 2007, and is another major website for parents searching for their abducted children. Website founder Zhang Baoyan said that the site had more than 20,000 registered volunteers.

Over the course of five years, Wei Ji, from Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, travelled across the country, voluntarily, searching for abducted children. Before his untimely death in January this year, he had successfully helped to reunite over 60 families with their children.

The government has also played an important role in addressing the issue, with campaigns to bust trafficking rings and to locate abducted children.

The State Council issued the first state-level abduction action plan in 2007, which ordered governments of all levels to cooperate with the relevant social forces to establish comprehensive mechanisms to address the abduction of women and children from 2008 to 2012.

In 2013, the second anti-abduction plan was launched by the central government in order to improve the mechanism for the period of 2013 to 2020.

Additionally, the Public Security Ministry set up a DNA database in April 2009 to assist the search. The database includes DNA from the parents of abducted children and samples will be taken from suspected-stolen children or vagrant children with an unclear background.

In 2013, 2,765 child abduction cases were handled by the authorities and 631 children found their birth parents through the database, according to statistics from the State Council.

However, despite the efforts, some say more must be done.

"Prevention is more important that action after the fact. We should try our best to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again," Feng said.

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