Zhang Baoyan and Qin Yanyou attend a ceremony held on Sunday. (Photo/Sina Weibo)
A couple in northeast China's Jilin Province was awarded a good Samaritan award for helping more than 1,400 people find their lost family members in the past nine years.
At a ceremony held on Sunday, state broadcaster China Central Television included Zhang Baoyan and Qin Yanyou on its list of the 10 people who moved the nation in 2015.
In April 2007, the couple in Tonghua City paid out of pocket to set up a website dedicated to sharing information for those searching for their parents or children. The free service exhausted all of their savings until donations from big companies poured in several years later.
"We have seen more than 1,400 successful family reunions, but are still working on around 40,000 unsolved cases," Zhang said.
Zhang said the idea was inspired by the couple's own experience of losing their son briefly at an apartment store. "I trembled, I was full of pain. It's not hard to imagine the feelings of parents whose children were abducted or wandered away for long," she said.
In addition to Zhang, the website is staffed with seven full-time employees whose salaries are paid by the local government.
More than 170,000 volunteers across the country, divided into more than 100 groups based on their locations and professions, are helping investigations, offering help if their expertise or location matches with a case.
Police officers are important volunteers. "It's a great honor to help lost children back home using the advantage of my job," said Ding Chao at a police station in Luyi County, central China's Henan Province.
Despite progress, what Zhang remembers the most was a failed attempt to help a six-year-old boy who was abducted and sold find his family years ago.
The boy, Cong Cong, was abandoned by the person who bought him at a hospital in southeast China's Fujian Province after being diagnosed with life-threatening meningitis.
Zhang and volunteers rushed to the boy's bedside with donations that enabled him to get an operation. They also offered clues to the police and helped capture the traffickers.
However, their plan to bring Cong Cong to Beijing or Shanghai for better treatment failed because they lacked guardianship. Shortly after, the boy died.
"I prayed for him: 'I hope you meet your mother in the heaven, a place where there's no pain'," Zhang said.
The Chinese government has been clamping down on rampant human trafficking in recent years. According to statistics from the Supreme People's Court, from 2010 to 2014, courts at all levels concluded more than 7,000 abduction cases involving children and women and punished nearly 13,000 convicts.