World / Reporter's Journal

China needs an 'AMBER Alert' system to fight child abductions

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA) Updated: 2014-10-14 04:10

To combat the rampant crime of human trafficking - especially the abduction of minors - China should learn to construct a more comprehensive and well-rounded mechanism to prevent the offenses from recurring.

Child-trafficking is rampant in China, especially in rural southwest regions where the old-fashioned concept of male offspring being heirs to the family name still prevails. The backward bias has led to a criminal market for the abduction and sale of baby boys, and sometimes baby girls who will be raised as bait to lure future marriage dowries.China needs an 'AMBER Alert' system to fight child abductions

It took the lives of three children and 20 years for the US to establish a rapid response system to tackle crimes committed against children such as trafficking and abduction. How long will it take China?

Compared to the 1990s, when only about 62 percent of missing children could be found, law enforcement departments and agencies in the US are now able to locate 98 percent of missing children, thanks to a well-established national network.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one of the leading organizations of its kind, has been at the forefront of the fight to keep children safe from adduction and sexual exploitation since its establishment 30 years ago.

"We provide the resources needed to help protect children and prevent these devastating crimes committed against children," the center says.

The US learned from its past the hard way. Six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared in 1979 and later was found murdered; six-year-old Adam Walsh was adducted from a Sears store in Florida in 1981 and was killed; nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.

The smiling images of these three children and their tragic fates shocked the entire country, raised national awareness of child safety and led to the missing child safety programs of Code Adam in 1994 and AMBER Alert, or the America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response, in 1996.

In this past seven-day-long National Day Holiday which started on Sept 29, many Chinese moviegoers shared through social media their heart-wrenching experience of watching the newly-released feature-length film Dearest.

Starring Zhao Wei and Huang Bo and directed by Ho-Sun Chan, the movie is based on a true story: A young couple in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, combed half of China to search for their adducted three-year-old son only to find the little one had bonded with his new rural family and viewed his biological parents as strangers.

China has vowed a harsher crackdown on adduction-related crimes, and has stepped up efforts over the years to appropriately relocate victims of human trafficking since the State Council adopted a 2007 action plan and supplemented it with more precautionary measures and rescue methods in 2013.

The action plan for fighting human trafficking (2013-20) was created in accordance with relevant international conventions and Chinese laws, said the Information Office of the State Council, will be carried out by public security departments at all levels, and requires the assistance of relevant departments and the participation of the general public.

Notably, the plan has emphasized that the long-term anti-trafficking mechanism will be infused with precautionary measures, rescue work and rehabilitation efforts in particular to make sure victims are rehabilitated and relocated in a timely manner.

Over the years, Chinese authorities have launched a number of campaigns to bring abducted children home, continuously busting child-trafficking rings and returning tens of thousands of kidnapped children to their homes. Police across the country rescued 8,660 abducted children and 15,458 women in breaking up 3,195 criminal circles engaged in human trafficking in 2011, according to Xinhua.

Talking to the media at the Venice film festival in August where his film was presented, Chan said he crafted Dearest in two parts in order to help the audience understand the complexity of the child-abduction phenomenon.

"The first half is about finding a kidnapped adopted child, while the second is about after you have found him and have to encounter the foster mother whom you think is a criminal. So you also see the other side of the story," Chan said, noting that the devastating aftermath caused by child abduction lingers much longer than ordinary parents can cope with.

For the government, it’s never too soon to remedy the situation. For the sake of children’s safety, let’s stop child abduction from the very beginning.

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