Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Haunting Faces on a Page

As one scans the finding ads published for the children being placed for adoption, one sees a sea of infant faces. The vast majority of the ads published are for infant girls under one year of age, sometimes just a few weeks old. It is easy to scan over the many faces quickly without giving them much of a thought.

It is the older children that make you pause -- that force your eyes to stop and look at the photo printed on the page. These children bring the questions to mind: Why was she abandoned at such a relatively old age? What must she be going through? Will she find a home? The images linger in your mind, and haunt you with unanswered questions.

But the most unsettling of all are images of another kind – not the children found on the street or in front of the orphanage, but the ads for children for whom the Police are seeking families. "Zhao Yi, a girl, one and a half years old, was sent back to Kunming on 8/1/04 from Guangdong Province. She is a kidnapped baby." These are the ads of abducted children, sometimes found great distances away, and who desperately are trying to find their way home.

Baby abduction and trafficking are big problems in China. One estimate is that over 1,000 children are kidnapped each year in China, but this is no doubt a very conservative estimate (http://www.humantrafficking.org/countries/china). A small percentage are found and rescued by police, but the majority are never heard from again. A large percentage of those that are rescued are never reunited with their families, and end up in area orphanages to be adopted to strangers.

On October 28, 2003 police in Xinxiang City in Henan Province retrieve seventeen children, ranging in ages from a few months old to four years old. Initially cared for at the Xinxiang orphanage, police track the origins of the children to Guiyang in Guizhou Province. Through interviews with the traffickers, police learn that one of the children, a two year old boy, had been sold to a family for 12,000 rmb. Another one-year old boy had been sold for 13,000 rmb. A one-year old girl had brought 5,000 rmb, as had an infant girl. A four-year old boy had traded hands for 15,000 rmb.

Fifteen of the children were brought to the Guiyang orphanage, arriving on December 29, 2003. The orphanage had prepared beds and clothes for the children. Police posted finding ads in area newspapers, but no one came forward. Their future is unknown, and if unclaimed they will be processed for adoption by the Guiyang orphanage (Guizhou City Daily, 12/31/03, p. 30).

On August 20, 2003 an off-duty policewoman alerted Security on train K207 traveling from Chengdu to Qingdao (Shangdong). Security Police learn of 11 babies in compartment #18 of the train, the oldest was over a year, youngest under a week. At 3:12 am the train arrives at Huaifeng (Shangdong), and 50 police raid the train, having only 6 minutes to arrest and retrieve the children. The children are sent to the Huaifeng City orphanage.

Six days later, on the same train, a Security person was alerted to two women transporting kidnapped babies in cabin 13 – one boy and a girl 2 months old. Two more are discovered in the next compartment (14). A total of eighteen children were eventually discovered (Ibid., 9/14/04, p. 13).

In a single six-month period, the "Guizhou City Daily" newspaper reported six trafficking stories involving over 100 children from Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Guizhou, Henan and Fujian Provinces. Most of the stories were printed in an attempt to locate families. Not all of the children had been kidnapped, but many had been. In most cases the children ended up in orphanages, their families unable to be located.


Anonymous said...

Looking at those ads breaks my heart... how can it not? Female infantcide and child trafficking have been part of China's history for centuries. It is not new. The difference now is that they are searching for the families via print.


Anonymous said...

This is very sad, indeed. It's too bad there isn't a registry whereby parents and children can be reunited. I'm sure the parents of the abducted babies are living a nightmare and pleading for information.

Donna said...

I just don't understand why there's a market for babies in a country where babies are abandoned at an astonishing rate every day.

Please forgive the horrible analogy but isn't it like stealing ice cubes to sell to Eskimos?


Research-China.Org said...

Although there are significant numbers of children abandoned each year, there appears to be significant domestic demand for those children by childless couples also. Additionally, many rural families are not in a position to adopt through legal channels given high fees, etc. (sometimes as high as 30,000 yuan). Thus the paradox: Girls in orphanages, yet children being kidnapped.

Anonymous said...

I claim that female infanticide is not existing in today's China at least in any significance. It is a myth kept alive by many westerns. Kay Ann Johnson has come to the same conclusion.



Anonymous said...

I don't understand why the families cannot be located. If my child was taken from me, I would make sure that I was registered with all the proper authorities so that if my child was found I could be contacted. Is there no such system in place?

Research-China.Org said...

There are several reasons why families don't come forward to claim the children: First, it is difficult with infants to know for certain where they originated, and thus publicize in the correct areas. One must rely on the traffickers, which would claim tha tthe children were not kidnapped but sold or given up by their birth parents. It is doubtful that they would truthfully tell the origins of the children.

But second, it is likely that some of the children were sold or relinquished by their birth parents, who will then be afraid to come forward. In one of the articles quoted, one of the children trafficked was actually the son of one of the traffickers. He had given up his own son for money.


Anonymous said...

Sofia- It has been well documented that female infancide is part of China's history. As far as it existing today, and to what degree, I would assert we don't really know.

Brian writes: In one of the articles quoted, one of the children trafficked was actually the son of one of the traffickers. He had given up his own son for money.

---> Wow.


Anonymous said...

Why can't they publicize in all areas? Please forgive my ignorance, but could they possibly publicize on the national news? Maybe just once a month. But then again, if parents are actually relinquishing their children and then turning around and claiming that they were kidnapped so to avoid punishment, then they wouldn't come foward anyway. BTW, what a sick bastard to traffic his own son;I hope he is in jail.

Anonymous said...

Mimi, I agree infanticide is part of China's history and furthermore it is part of the western history too.

Today's world some infants are still killed by their parents and this is happening in China as well in worldwide.


Maria said...

Girl infanticide is a time-honored tradition in many Asian countries. Nothing like that is present in Western societies. There is certainly cruelty to children, which may lead to their death, but the societal and cultural influences that have lead to the perception of worthlessness of the female infant is an Asian construct. Don't worry, I think there is much in Western society to criticize, but you can't compare infanticide traditions. Now, if we are going to talk about abortion, and call it infanticide, that is a different kettle of fish altogether. Of course, most abortions don't target the male or female infant.

Tg said...


...neonaticide -- the murder of an infant immediately after or within a few hours of birth -- occurs about 250 times a year in the United States....

....Infanticide has been practiced on every continent and by people on every level of cultural complexity, from hunters and gatherers to high civilization, including our own ancestors. Rather than being an exception, then, it has been the rule. ....

...While female infanticide has at times been necessary for survival of the community-at-large, there have also been instances where it has been related to the general societal prejudice against females which characterizes most male-dominated cultures.

....Statistical Analysis - United States....from 1982-1987, approximately 1.1% of all homicides were children under the age of one year of age. When the homicide of a child was committed by a parent, it was the younger age child who was in the greater danger of being killed, while if the killer was a non-parent, then the victim was generally older.....


In the Greece of 200 B.C., for example, the murder of female infants was so common that among 6,000 families living in Delphi no more than 1 percent had two daughters. Among 79 families, nearly as many had one child as two. Among all there were only 28 daughters to 118 sons. ... But classical Greece was not unusual. In eighty-four societies spanning the Renaissance to our time, "defective" children have been killed in one-third of them



Anonymous said...

brian, the older children, are they stolen or abandoned, and how can someone adopt them?

Research-China.Org said...

The older children might be abandoned for several reasons. It might be that the family kept her until they had a third child, and if that child was a boy they then abandon the second daughter, who by now can be over a year old. It might be that medical issues developed. As with anything, each case is unique.

Many of the children are adopted through normal channels (if under 2 years of age), or can be found in the waiting child program. The waiting child program will grow increasingly important, I believe, as China emphasizes the adoption of these children over the healthy infants.

33458 said...

In my area there is a family that adopted an older girl (8 or 9 years old). She was abandoned at about age 4 or 5 and knew why - her parents wanted a boy. That simple. They (her birth parents)told her not to tell anyone her real name or birthday so new ones were made up by the orphanage.

Josh said...

"female infanticide has at times been necessary for survival of the community-at-large" (tg)

Infanticide is never strictly necessary for the survival of a community, though it may be necessary for the survival of a community's cultural norms (property rights passing only to male heirs, for example).