Shenzhen (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In 2009 alone, the city of Shenzhen experienced the kidnapping of at least 23 children, three of whom were killed during the abduction. The data has emerged from revelations of government representatives that describe a phenomenon with far more widespread than the numbers so far made public by the police.
The abduction of children, mostly between 9 and 11 years of age, takes place outside schools or on their journey between their homes and schools. One police agent explains that the authorities "generally do not reveal the exact number of crimes such as kidnappings and robberies so as not to foment panic." Shaobao Shen, deputy director of police, interviewed by the South China Morning Post, however, recognizes that the phenomenon “has seen a dramatic increase" in cases during 2009. In the period between January and April, the official cases of kidnapping were 184 and police arrested 9374 persons suspected of involvement in kidnappings.
The array of uncertain figures number and the most recent cases of abduction of children made public by the authorities are, however, scaring the population of Shenzhen and particularly the families with small children. The latest child abduction case, in October, ended with the killing of the young victims, even if the parents had paid a ransom of 500 thousand U.S. dollars. After that, the schools have invited parents to pay more attention to their children. "We are terrified by the rumours that are circulating - says a mother of Nanshan district - but the police won’t tell us the truth and some people speak of hundreds of abducted children."
The investigations have allowed the police to find out for now the method used by the kidnappers. They plan their blitz carefully and they often benefit from direct knowledge of the children. A Futian police officer says in fact that many children are kidnapped by neighbours or people they already know. In most cases the kidnapping end with the murder of the child to prevent the child, once released, from revealing the identity of his or her kidnappers.
Official estimates of child abductions published by the Ministry for Public Security in China speak at least 30 thousand cases a year. According to UNICEF those figures are much higher mainly because the development of the phenomenon in poor rural areas is unknown. The small victims feed the markets for prostitution and child labour, trafficking in organs, but also that of illegal adoptions which affects mostly boys.
The Beijing government is trying to stem the phenomenon also pressured by public protests. Among the latest initiatives is the creation of a website, Children looking for home, through which the Ministry for Public Security disseminates photos of some of the missing children. Any police action and control, however, must deal with a paradox of the Chinese judicial system that punishes the abandonment, abduction or sale of a child, but does not consider it illegal to buy one.