Amber Alert on Micro-Blog

Professor Jianrong Yu, from Chinese Academy of Social Science, launched a campaign to save “children beggars” via micro-blog system.

It’s reported that more than 200,000 children were missing in China every year. The number is astonishing. Most missing children were kidnapped and sold to gangsters who use children to beg for money on the streets. There has been a considerable large black market of children trafficking operating many years. The children beggars, as young as 3 or 4 years old, are in miserable condition, frequently being beaten, starved and abused.

Prof. Yu’s campaign is let the people to photograph the children beggars on the streets and post the photos on micro-blog so that the parents of the missing children could find the clue of their babies. Prof. Yu’s call was warmly responded by more than 55,000 micro-blog posts with 800 photos of children. It’s reported that several children were indeed saved by the information revealed on the micro-blog.

However, the civil society campaign could make mistakes. For example, the parents from Shanxi discovered a boy beggar in a photo taken in Zhuhai looking extremely similar to their baby and reported to police. The local police immediately arrested the man who led the said children beggar and declared a success of micro-blog salvation. Sadly, it was too early to celebrate for the family reunion.  The boy was not the son of Shanxi parents.

There are other concerns over the campaign. All the children’s photos are published online. Does it violate the children’s privacy and minor’s legal protection? Would the photos be utilized for illegal purposes, such as commercial ads or extortion by organized crimes? Who is responsible for protecting the children’s personal information?

Fortunately, the campaign has noted these issues. Prof. Yu said a database of missing children will be set up and people’s submissions will not be publicly accessible anyway. Then it arises other issues, such as transparency of information and sustainability of the operation.

Some Congressmen have urged the police to take more effective actions against children kidnapping and trafficking and improve the social welfare system to help poor children, particularly in migrant workers’ families.


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