When will we honor all our children?

A tradition of favoring boys over girls, and China’s strict family planning policies have turned the sale of stolen children into a thriving business. The New York Times reports this is happening in China’s Pearl River Delta. The infant boys, nabbed in major industrial towns, are sent to rural areas. Driven by fear: who will take care of me in my old age, driven by pride: without a son how can I hold my head up, the children frequently end up with farm families desperate for male heirs.

Advocates say it is difficult at best to calculate exactly how many children are stolen. The Chinese government reports 2500 cases, but that includes women and children. Child advocates estimate more than 100,000, State Department estimates are 10-20,000. Which is correct? One Chinese man compiled a list of 2000 names of parents with missing children all from one city.

An informal, illegal network runs the child trafficking. Poor farmers know who to contact, and they do, paying $3-4000 for a male child. Multiply that by the estimates.

Officials have to be aware this is going on, but you wouldn’t know it because they acknowledge it. Their response is almost an encouragement, and if not that blatant, then turning a blind eye. A family, whose three-month-old son died, was advised by their family planning official, “Just buy another one.”

Officials look the other way, close ranks, and very few at the place of abduction intervene. At the other end, where the children reappear, officials are fairly indifferent. They don’t have resources to track down the perpetrators or to cross provinces. The victims are largely ‘migrant’ workers, those who come from other provinces, and are less of a concern in the large manufacturing towns where there are a million ‘migrant’ workers.

The kidnapping sites are busy, crowded places, where people don’t necessarily know each other. At end of day, when tired, working parents are less vigilant and the children merely a few feet away, they are grabbed and hurled into a car. Gone. Forever.

When the parents contact the police, they are told wait 24 hours, but those are the crucial 24 hours. Often, when parents return the next day, they are told too much time has elapsed, not much we can do.

A family who purchased a child, complained when caught, they didn’t know the child was stolen, the man who sold them the child said it was his own son, that he had more than one, his wife was ill and in hospital. They should have known, there were signs, child spoke a different dialect, didn’t like their food, but they were desperate for a son, borrowed money from everyone in their village to complete the sale. The boy was there for about a year until police broke up the trafficking ring. The seller’s confession sent the police to the village. This boy and three others from that village were sent back to their homes.

If the neighbors are doing it, why not join in?

Because it’s wrong.

I’ve spoken many times of the goodness of a government that allows willing parents to legally adopt their country’s children. They could hide their problems, let the little ones languish without love. I cannot fathom they allow their sons to be stolen. I am speechless. But not without thought. Today, I award the Shameful Award to those could help and do not help.



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