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by Sha Bihong


People always believe that anti-kidnapping work can get hundreds of thousands of separated families’ reunion again as long as there is courage, goodness and confidence,

Just like many cases of anti-kidnapping which happened before.

But we are wrong.

Anyone who holds such an idea certainly never experience it personally,

So, can’t understand what the real anti-kidnapping means.

On March 30, 2000, in order to shoot a documentary of Anti-kidnapping, I had to leave my daughter, who had been just born a couple of months before.

It was already late in night. My little daughter certainly was asleep at home. But I was sitting in front of a pile of documents about striking women and children kidnapping and could not fall asleep.

Among those documents, there was one petition, which was written by civilians living in Xiaohe township in Guiyang province of China, for President Jiang Zemin:

Respected President Jiang Zemin,

We, dozens of unfortunate families all come from Guiyang. We know each other while looking for our kids. We would also want to have a happy and peaceful life just as other people do. But every wonderful thing has gone and destroyed. After that our kids were tragically kidnapped, some of us get crazy or even dead, some look for jobs in Guangdong, Fujian, Hebei and other places, because we think we may find our kids there. No matter what happens, even we lose both money and life, or have to beg for food on the street, we will never give up to search for our babies.

Now, we have a list of kidnapped kids in our hands. Not only our dozens of families lose our kids, and so did many other families. The number is difficult to count. Just less than 2 km around in Xiaohe township in Guiyang, some kids are hooked while their parents are buying vegetables, some are taken away while playing or having lunch in front of home; what’s worse, some are even nabbed by human traders by taxi, electric tricycle or rickshaw. People have to ask why these traffickers are so rampant. We hope that relevant departments could catch these traffickers and rescue these children out.

We hope that relevant departments could strike these criminals hard as soon as possible to prevent more families from losing their babies and get kidnapped kids back. Otherwise, we don’t know how many unfortunate children would be tortured. We believe that our party and country can help us save our lost children, protect the peace, and have the pure land back.

During the kid-searching, we notice that most lost children are taken and sold to Fujian, Guangdong, Hebei, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. So we recommend that the law also can punish those who buy kids besides traffickers in order to cut their market. Such deals will no long exist.

Once again we call for the state, the society, people and authorities, please save children! For the poor parents who lost their kids!

Victims, unfortunate families from Xiaohe township in Guiyang

August 7th, 1998

I couldn’t help shedding tears when thinking of those parents who lost their children, those abducted children, and those kids are caught in the abyss of evil traffickers.

It can be said, to make a profound and large documentary of China’s anti-kidnaping situation, has always been my dream for years, because I have focused on the survival status of vulnerable groups in our society. At this moment I am really delighted and also nervous, because I was assigned to be the Television Center general director of this ten-episode television documentary for the Ministry of Public Security Shield. But I am also nervous due to the difficulty of the shooting, we have to follow the police during the case, of course there will not be plain sailing. More importantly, how can I leave my baby just born a few months without any concern? How can I give up the responsibility of taking care of her? However, my heart was telling me: go, it’s your obligatory.

This morning, I received a message out of a sudden. The Luohu Branch of Shenzhen Police Station had just rescued 300 women and children out. That means I’m going to interview. At that time I held my baby, and kissed her on the face repeatedly, my heart was filled with strange felling. I kept saying, “Mom doesn’t want to go!” Is reluctant to leave my baby? Or reluctant not to go shooting? Despair. Friends took me to airport with my baby, there; I headed to security check while walking backward, eyes staring at her. (She opened her arms like a bird, and kept holding that posture looks like she was toward me), finally, I stood on the checkpoint, turned around, waved, wiped tears and headed to the boarding gate.

It was tough, at that moment. I finally realized how my mother felt every time when I left home, she was so sad that tears would fall…But, when I was on my way to the plane among the crowd, I turned around, and felt that my baby was looking at me behind me, her wings had become the power pushing me forward. Although I did not want to leave her, it was she that pushed me toward another group of children. Suddenly, I felt clear, and my baby made me more aware of my responsibility.

In fact, the responsibility is plain, simple, but warm. Sometimes responsibility is you give someone-else a hand when they need you, even if it is tiny.

So, I feel very happy and satisfied with my choice now, and believe that I will do my best to produce these documentaries. I know I will work with policemen to deal with kidnapping case, and even have to face danger sometimes…

On April 3, it was the first time I saw a mother who lost her child. Someone says, if a child dies of illness, it is short-term pain, but if a child is kidnapped, it is a nightmare.

Yesterday, we went to the Luohu branch. We were told that there were too many children, so they had to send them to other police stations. As a result, I didn’t see a child but meet Zheng Yanzhen accidentally, who was the first mother I knew with her child kidnapped.

Zheng is 29 years old, the moment I came across her I felt a little bit awkward. I had no idea what to do, what kind of attitude should I have to take in front of her, I can’t be too enthusiast, and neither too cold. What a strange feeling that I never had before. All of these were because I had never seen such a young face but pale and expressionless. It was callous, disappointed, frustrated, leaving a set of mechanic facial actions with a smile; her eyes were filled with sorrow and fatigue, which it seemed have been engraved in here every cell.

This woman under 30 must have forgotten how to smile since she lost her girl.

Don’t let your child leave home alone.

Zheng Yanzhen and her family live in Molin. They lived on small business, slept late and got up early every day. They were too busy to have a rest. It was a day last autumn, Zheng wanted to play with her girl so she went home earlier. They played for a while and took her downstairs to go shopping. After paying and turning around, she couldn’t find her girl who was just playing around. She didn’t even realize it was the last time she saw her daughter, and she had lost her girl since then.

She said to me, “Since my daughter lost, I have been living death. I went out every day to look for her, and posted lost advertisements everywhere. One time, at the entrance of the Chinese Nations Garden, I thought there may be someone had seen my girl for it was always crowed, so I attended to post the advertisement of missing person there. I went to talk to the security, begged him but was refused. I started to cry, and told him my story, but he was still nonchalant. A group of people came over and surrounded me, heard my story, and cried too. At that time, an old lady stood out and help me beg the security, later others joined. At last, the security agreed, and allowed me to have the advertisement on for only 15 minutes.

I was still satisfied with these 15 minutes. I appreciated him because it’s his job. I can’t remember how many curses I received for posting a lost notice, and how many pairs of shoes wore out during my searching; once I fainted on the street...

“Every day, I came home and I can’t fall asleep. When it was 9pm, I thought it’s time to feed my girl; At 10pm, I thought she should be in my arms, and asked me to sing to her so that she can fall asleep. I sang, she sang. What a happy time… But, it’s gone, I will never hold her again, I don’t even know where she is, is she hurt and crippled by those traffickers. Where on earth is my girl?”

Choking with sobs, Zheng held a pair of red shoes in her hands. She bought the same pair of shoes as her girl was on when kidnapped. She said the shoes made her felt comforted as the girl was still at home.

On April 17, Hu Lan, the trafficker, was arrested by Liuhua Branch of the Guangzhou Police Station. Picture: Captain Wang Chennan and A Dong are questioning Hu.

How long will children kidnapping pain a family? Someone says that it may be a short suffer if a child dies of illness, but a nightmare if the child is kidnapped. The family will never go out of the nightmare if the child doesn’t return.

I remind of a real story. Hu Yingying from Hubei lose her 4-year-old girl for years, but still put her chopsticks on dining table, spend a birthday party for here with the family. For this coming Children’s Day, her husband and she bought a new suit of clothes for her girl according to the imagined size, and the grandmother even paste her photos full on the mirror, go to street every day and shout her granddaughter’s name, and don’t go back home until tired.

Generally, child kidnapping not only violates the personal rights of a kid, but severely attack three families in two generations.

We follow and shoot how Zheng Yanzhen searches for her daughter from day to night. Our photographers and I have already been parched in mouth and scorched in tongue, but her footsteps are still strong. She squeezed herself into a crowded bus, cross bridge, asked everyone she saw with her daughter’s picture, and repeated her daughter’s features again and again. I believe it must be love which makes her tireless.

She saw the news last evening that there were 300 women and children rescued, a light of hope appeared in her eyes. She went to every police station immediately.

When seeing those children, she threw herself to hug two kids, and burst into tears uncontrollably.

She cried, “Poor kids, poor kids, my girl was also kidnapped…please don’t run around if going back home. Your mother will feel very sad…”

She failed to find her daughter in several police stations. Later, she asked about a women’s reeducation center, where lived more than 100 children who were unclaimed temporally.

With great hopes, but the result disappointed her significantly. I will never forget the scene she saw the last kid, she struggled up, turned around with her eyes welled with tears. She certainly felt hopeless and dragged her legs out.

Just out, her legs went soft. She paralyzed in tears. Such a scene broke my heart.

Photographer and I cried, but we stood where we were, we didn’t go for her, but I thought, she had better cry out, because this strong mother rarely vents her suffering.

That day we didn’t finish our shooting until it was very late in night, in bed , tired, then I began to dream, it was a long dream, in which I lost my daughter, I was looking for her, my mood was totally different, because in my dream I had personally experienced the real emotion of Zheng Yanzhen: anxiety, anxious, upset, hope…I walked, looked and shouted my girl`s name, and finally I found one who knew the information of my girl, so I beg her to tell me. In my life, it is difficult for me to beg for others, but in my dream I even want to take me to his knees and begged her to help me, when I was about to do it the ring woke me up.

The calling turned out to be from my husband. He wanted me to listen to my daughter's laughter. My daughter laugh came though loudly phone, that baby's pure laugh. I smiled, thank goodness, I had a nightmare.

I lay in the wet pillow because of tears in the dream over the night and listened to my daughter's laughter. Lucky I woke up from a nightmare. And how I expected that Zheng Yanzhen and families who lost children could also come out from the nightmare of real life as soon as possible. Let the children’s murmuring back to their ears, and let the happy sunshine shine in their face again.

April 4, Lixiangyuan Shenzhen, It is completely unable to imagine that the freed boy said: I don't go home.

Today, our filming for Zhen Yan came to an end. I wanted to go to interview the freed children.

I went with confidence there and also bought some snacks for children, but I didn't think that I was planning to make them happy with the snacks which turned into a " confession by inducement "; I thought the children were separated from parents for a long time, after torture by human traffickers, when they are freed, they would be like many reporters have written, eagerly expressed the hope to go back home.

But, everything was totally different from what I expected.

In the police station, a dozen children were sitting at the table in the conference room, as soon as I walked in, they would also smile when they saw me before, but at the sight of Li Yong who followed me and carried a camera, and immediately they liked trained soldiers, uniformly laid down, their reaction was so quick, their movement was so sensitive that even special forces were hard to reach that standard.

After a while, some children could not hold it, looked up to see me, and bowed their heads again.

I walked beside a youngest girl and saw that her neck and wrists were covered with layer upon layer of scars. She was bought by human traffickers to beg. But because her nature is shy, so she couldn’t always beg enough 50 Yuan which specified by traffickers every day. She would be beaten and tortured, what a common situation of all the children who sell flowers or beg money. Then I saw her scars, I thought such a small child, covered in wounds, is really poor. She must have endured a lot of pain. If his parents saw, I don't know how sad they would feel. I couldn't help stroking her hair, feeling very distressed, trying to speak with her.

The author of this article (right) was deeply on the frontline of anti-kidnap.

I talked gently to her, "Look at me?" She kept still and silent. Li Yong had a good idea, and said, "This aunt has a lot of delicious snacks, and will give the one who say the first word." It worked. She looked up with a hope-searching and distrust in her eyes.

I asked, "Do you miss your home?"

She immediately shouted loudly, "No!"

Astonished, I asked again, "Don't you miss your mum?"

She shouted once more, "I don't know".

I asked, "How old are you?"

She cried much louder: "I don't know. Where are the delicious?

I thought that this was just only her naughty, and then spoke with another child.

This child also had scars in him, I asked directly, "Who did it?"

"Come on, come on!" The boy in four or five years old responded me in an adults’ tone, which gave me a shock. He imitated so alike that an inexplicable grieve and concern attacked me at once. I found that in fact, many of us didn’t know about these children, and most always judged them with the subjective imagination and a simple kind wish, but ignored the mental trauma and the soul distortion exerted on them.

Among these kidnapped children, the eldest was 14 years old and the youngest was only 1 month old. They lived with human traders every day, and were forced to beg or sell flowers. A blank paper of mind was written with darkness, oppression, fear and evil; these little hearts were twisted at the very start. They had never been loved or loved someone. They didn’t know love. When going back to so-called "home", they had to face the evil; when begging or even stealing, what they received was cold disdainful eyes. They didn’t have the sense of rightness and wrongness, as well as good and evil standards... An ill-shapen soul grew up in a deformed environment. So they smiled nastily. How can we blame them? They were too small to think and judge independently. This went better with older kidnapped children.

For such a group of children, compassion is like a drop in the ocean.

Until now, I have begun to adjust my train of thought on this shooting. We had planned to shoot the rescue action and save a large number of women and children, and then send them back home to realize this hope. It should have been a happy ending.

But now, it seems just like a beginning of rescue if only pulling them out of human traders’ hands. The more significant rescue action is to free their souls and spirits.

In the afternoon, we went to another police station, where more than ten children were rescued.

Likewise, when we entered the yard, the children playing around fled away. A higher boy rushed hostilely to us and covered the shot with his hands, which was completely like a grown-up, inconsistent with his age.

Then, a policewoman came over with a bottle of milk to feed a baby in the arms of a little girl. Just at that moment, the 5-year-old girl grabbed the milk from the policewoman, jumped into a corner, and fed the baby, looking around alertly. Apparently she didn't trust anyone.

A policeman waved to me and said, "Don't take this, it’s useless."

I stated that I wanted to shoot something real.

Another policeman said, "Actually, to manage this group of children is harder than to manage a wolf child. Sorry for that”

I thought there was nothing wrong about this saying, because it's the truth.

The key was not how to cover the fact, but how to think about this fact, and how to do something which has to be done and should be done for the children to really and completely save them.

Policemen had realized what really concerns. Zeng Min, director of Taining police station, said, “We are going to support these children to go to school with our own money donated by our fellows.”

This beginning should be a fresh green for these kids after frigid winter.

I see a hopeful future for the children, but feel that the burden can’t be taken on by these policemen alone.

The female writer and director Sha Bihong starts her life of anti-kidnapping. What she sees and hears are dramatically beyond her imagination. But it is just the beginning, what happens later makes her a mixed feeling. Please follow the next issue of Culture World, Sha Bihong will show us more shocking pictures.

Selected from the Culture World, July, 2000.

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