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Baby Trade

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China is putting up some astounding numbers in reporting on its efforts to combat human trafficking. In a report released a few weeks ago, a State-owned newspaper states that “Chinese police had rescued 14,717 kidnapped children and women this year as of June 28 amid a special year-long campaign against human trafficking.” Police also reportedly arrested 17,528 suspects for human trafficking crimes, including 19 of the 20 most-wanted suspects for this crime.

WOW. It’s great that they have caught so many people, but can you believe that there are actually that many people to be caught? Makes you wonder about how many more people are not being caught and how many more children are caught in the trade? Even with these numbers, the average Chinese citizen is about as ignorant about the problem in their country as we are in each of ours.

This trade includes kids sold for labor purposes, sold as orphans, sold to be brides and mistresses, and only God knows what else. It is not clear whether this is strictly domestic trade, or whether these children are trafficked out of the country. It is also not clear how many children may be given up freely by their parents or coerced out of their parents’ hands by “authorities” – real or not. Some parents may be lead to believe that there is no other way, or this is the best way for their children, or in order to escape punishment for violating strict family planning rules. Certain people in the baby trade may not necessarily be honest (to say the least) about the regulations and punishments when approaching people regarding their children.

What about the children of mixed marriages between a foreign woman (legal or not) who does not have Chinese citizenship and a Chinese man? Many of them are abandoned and are at extreme risk of being trafficked. I’m still trying to figure out the legal status of these children because I’m seeing more and more of them and want to know how best to help them.   Believe it or not, it is not that clear.

China is no longer hiding the fact that it has a problem with human trafficking, but they are defining it and dealing with the issue in their own terms as they see fit to maintain (in their own minds) the best possible face to the international community as well as their own people. One thing to realize is that China’s definition of trafficking differs from that of most of the international community and painting the issue of trafficking broadly helps them make big claims in their efforts to confront it. The ways that they make their investigations, deal with the perpetrators, and care for the children after “rescue” are opaque to people outside the responsible departments. For a more comprehensive review on China’s counter-trafficking efforts, see the US State Department’s 2010 TIP report (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to China).

But what about the TIP report? The US rates itself for the first time since publishing the document. Of course we gave ourselves top rating, but we still have huge gaps in addressing human trafficking on our own turf. The US’s main problem is domestic minor sex trafficking and I’ll discuss this in a future post. According to ECPAT USA (read their assessment of the TIP report), our own efforts are embryonic and so much more needs to be done to address our own trafficking problems even as we draw attention to every other countries efforts, or lack of them to address human trafficking.

One of the pitfalls that is easy to fall into is to think that it is up to our government, our police force, or anybody else to deal with this problem. It is first of all up to each one of us to make ourselves aware of what is going on and to find our own niche in bringing about justice and giving grace and mercy to the victims. We are the government, the police force, everyone else as the community that seeks justice together – it the only way to make it happen.


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