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In the Hometown of Human Traffickers (Excerpt)


In the Hometown of Human Traffickers

By Sha Bihong

Edited by Ma Shanglong

On the noon of June 22nd, 2000, we reached Kaili. Then A Du and another policeman brought us to the police station. There was nobody there, so they called Director Zhan of the provincial department of public security, and Director Zhan called Director Xiao of Kaili Police Station. Several minutes later, Tang Shurao, director of the criminal police branch, came and called the police station of Tianzhu County, asking them to do their best to cooperate with the police of Guangdong to seize the two human traffickers.

We sat down together and Director Tang introduced the topographic feature to us. This road was very terrible, and in some place, there was no road to go. We drove cars along the grass or field ditches. A Du went there last year, and it took him over 7 hours to drive 200 kilometers.

At 2:00 p.m., we finally got to Tianzhu Police Station after several hours of driving.

We sat down in a shed by the road and waited for the cook to fry the food.

A Du, along with Director Tang and Director Yang, began to have a meeting to discuss the seizing scheme.

According to Director Yang, the two criminals’ homes are not in Tianzhu, but in Longshan Village under the county. He had arranged personnel around their houses to monitor their tracks.

It was over 3:00 p.m. after we had lunch, and they were still having meeting. In the night, Director Yang went to the village to inquire about the information of Liu Laowu and He Xiaojing.

At this time, I looked up and saw that A Du was a little worried. He seemed much stressed about the action the next day. Last year, he and Li Haoping seized Chen Ruichang, principal criminal of the gang of North Guangdong, after waiting in the corn field for a month.

This year, the leaders trusted him for his rich experience, so appointed him to seize the principal criminal of the human trafficking case in Eastern Guangdong. Although he had once gone there and had the assistance of local police, he could not make sure the seizing action would succeed. In that village where human traffickers were gathering, we could hardly find them if they hide themselves or leave away. In addition, A Du had only several days this time, and he is very strict with himself, so I guess he could not relax at this moment.

Zhao Buhong and Li Yong had got the DV ready to record the whole course.

I wanted to comfort him, but I thought it could not help. So I could just pray in silence, hoping everything would be all right tomorrow.

On June 23rd, we got up very early. Zhao Buhong and A Du, led by Director Yang and other people, went to the village. They pretended to survey the condition of family planning. I led Li Yong and Mao Wei to the detention house. It is said that some traffickers and buyers had been seized.

I interviewed five human traffickers, and their answers are almost similar.

“Why do you do it?” I asked.

“For money,” they answered

“How much?”

“Ten thousand or six thousand yuan for a beautiful woman, and three to five thousand for an average


“Do you know it is illegal?” I said.

“I did not know until I was taken here.”

“What did you do before that?”

“Farm work”

“Why did you stop farming?”

“It is too tired and earns too little money.”

“Why did you start human trafficking?”

“Some people want to buy, and it is very easy, so we do it.” They answered frankly.

“Have you ever failed?”

“Never, it is very easy to cheat one at the railway station. One time, when I returned Guizhou from Guangdong, I found I had no money, so I said to a woman nearby that I could help her to find a job. She

went with me and I sold her for five thousand yuan.

“Didn’t she ever doubt?”

“No, they usually just asked how much they would be paid per month, I told them that six hundred, and they would go with me.”

“How did you control them?” I asked.

“I cheated for their ID cards first, and then they cannot go.”

After the conversation with those human traffickers, I could not help sign that lack of the consciousness of self-protection is one of the main reasons why those young ladies were abducted so easily. In addition, they are poorly educated and know little about the society outside, and that’s why they believe easily and lack the judgment between right and wrong.

After I finished the interview of traffickers, I met a buyer there unexpectedly.

His name is Li Xianqiang, a farmer’s son in a village of Tongzhou in Jiangsu. He is 24 years old. He told me sadly that he was cheated.

His hometown is very rich, but his family is relatively poor in the village, so he cannot get married due to poverty. He used to work in Yangzhou. He earned some money and returned home. His parents urged him to get married. A neighbor, who had bought a wife from Guizhou, advised Li Xianqiang to buy a woman in Tianzhu County of Guizhou, and he agreed. So the neighbor’s wife Ouyang Meiling went back to Tianzhu with Li Xianqiang, requiring him to be in charge of her travelling expense.

In Tianzhu, he bought a woman from a human trafficker, and then he took her back to Jiangsu.

Unexpectedly, the woman has a husband, who reported the case to the police once he found his wife was disappeared. The police in Tianzhu contacted that in Jiangsu at once. As a result, Li Xianqiang was arrested when he got off the train in Tongzhou. He lost both wife and money, so he was filled with anger.

I asked him: “Why are you so angry? Human trafficking is illegal!”

He said: “No one has told me that buying a woman is illegal. In my hometown, there are so many people buying wives. Now, I am aware that it is a crime. I would not buy one if I knew it.”

“If you are sentenced due to the bought, will you accept it?” I asked him.

“Yes, I submit to the law, not the human traffickers!” he answered.


“They cheated me. They have been colluded. They firstly sold a woman they know, and told her family to call the police after getting the money,” the buyer shed tears.

The policeman told us that it is called “sending pigeons”, which is a new criminal scheme of traffickers.

They know that now the anti-human trafficking action is implemented all over China, so they make use of it to earn money.

They usually choose a woman and sell her first. After she gets married with the buyer, they will call the police for rescue. Then she will be sent to her hometown, and they will get in on the act again. Therefore, a woman may be sold to villagers and rescued constantly, which makes big profits with a small capital.

The cases of human traffficking are much more complicated than those in the past. Yang Zuojian, director of the police bureau, told me that sometimes, when they get a report of trafficking, they always try to make sure that whether the woman is really abducted, or it is just a scheme of a human trafficking group. Most buyers are usually kept in the dark, and many of them have been cheated like Li Xianqiang. The criminal scheme of “sending pigeon” makes new challenges to the rescue of women abducted.

The night of June 23rd.

It is still raining. A Du and Zhao Buhong returned very late.

Via the further investigation in the village (they did not allow us to shoot their intelligence personnel and the scene of solving the case), we got the news that two human traffickers have escaped.

A Du felt very down that they pursued the criminals from far away, but they started off on the wrong foot. It kept raining, flashing and rumbling.

Finally, A Du decided to get back to Gulin of Sichuan. He wanted to catch Liu Laowu and He Xiaojing, via the interrogation of Chen Dengxue, Hu Lan’s husband.

In the next day, Director Yang tried to find a car to send us to Yuping, and there we would get on the train to Chongqing. Next we would go to Luzhou of Sichuan, and then take a bus to Gulin.

We arrived at Yuping Railway Station at about 10:00 a.m. The policemen helped us to settle down, and then we had lunch in a little restaurant in front of the station. In order to save time, we washed food ourselves and helped the chef with the cooking.

We got on the train over 11:00 a.m., where a traveler came to chat with us when he heard that we were the anti-trafficking crew. He said that he respects us very much, and our job is very significant.

He said that human traffickers and buyers are so bad that we should not show sympathy for them.

Everyone should abide by the law. Moreover, we should have our basic principles as human beings. He is right.

We were in Gulin on June 28th.

Gulin Police Station had arrested Chen Dengxue according to the materials sent by Liuhua substation.

In Gulin Detention House, I saw Chen Dengxue, “husband of Hu Lan”, the man abducted and sold Hu Lan.

The police had tried to catch him in Eastern Guangdong for several times, but he escaped. He thought it is safe to hide in his hometown, but got caught unexpectedly when he got home. He did not know that the police in China had done excellently in the work of anti-trafficking. No matter how far away, police can catch criminals cooperatively, with real names and pictures.

When meeting Chen, A Du was reminded of the scene that they failed to catch him in Eastern Guangdong. Before he started the interrogation, A Du said to him that “Chen Dengxue, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you!”

Chen Dengxue did not quite get it, and he said: “pardon?”

I am quite familiar with his expression while saying, which reminded me of Hu Lan who has similar tone and expression. Rather than husband-wife looks, it is the living environment that remodeled her after she was abducted, so he must be related to the reason why she turned to a human trafficker from a abducted woman.

“Chen Dengxue,” I sat face to face with him, “Do you know why you was arrested?”


“Did you go to school?”


“Can you read?”

“No, just some simple words.”

“Why did you become a human trafficker?”

“I don’t want to answer the question,” he said.

In the eyes of Hu Lan, Chen Dengxue is a man who is more clever than police. He is really clever, and he said that was why he did not want to dig coal in his village those years. Instead, he went to Guangzhou to do some “business”. However, he failed to become a millionaire because of his smartness, and he could not escape from the police finally.

A Du interrogated him all over the night in order to get the whereabouts of Liu Laowu and He Xiaojing.

During the interrogation, I, along with the colleagues of the camera crew, went through a mountain round and found Chen Dengxue’s home.

His lawful wife was laboring in the field. His daughter saw us, and then went to the field to inform her.

Chen Dengxue has six children, and the boy born by Hu Lan is the youngest, who looks thin and weak.

We waited for a while, and then his wife got returned. She looks stronger and older than Hu Lan. Due to long-term labor in the field, her face looks red and black. We sat by the ridge in front of the house and chatted with her.

“How long does your husband stay at home a year?”

“He will be back to help me in busy season, while he is not at home in other time.”

“You do farm work and take care of the children alone, so can you deal with it?”

“I have no choice,” she answered.

“Do you know that your husband has bought another wife?”

“Yes, and she once came here and lived with us,” she said.

“Do you accept that?”

“That’s how the life goes, and I have no choice, neither.”

“When you heard that he had a child with another woman, do you feel heart-broken?” I asked.

“It does not matter whether I feel hurt.” She answered poker-facedly.

“Are you willing to raise the boy born by Hu Lan?”

“I have to do it even if I don’t want to.”

That is the unique way how she says words, so I could not go on with our conversation. I felt that the

woman had been made insensitive by the tough life.

Many people in the little village gathered around her door. I asked a woman: “Do you think it’s fair to her that her husband bought another wife?”

“Why is it unfair? It is very normal to buy a concubine.”

“Can you accept that your husband buy another woman?”

“I have no choice then.” She said.

I asked some other woman villagers there, and I got like answers. I thought Chinese women had got rid of that feudal gender consciousness via so many years of education. However, it seemed that it is deep-rooted here. I thought of what Hu Lan said in Guangzhou:

“Maybe the equality between men and women has been realized in some other places, but it is impossible in our village. How can women get independent without money? ” Now, it seems that her words make sense to some extent.

It was getting dark, and we went to the house of Chen Dengxue’s parents, who are both clever and optimistic. However, the olds would get angry when he is mentioned.

“He seldom stays at home, and he is inferior to our younger son”, said his father.

“He borrowed money to build house, but has not given it back. Then, he bought a concubine. Now he dares not return this house in case that I blame him,” said his mother.

“My younger son is very diligent and hard working. He does farm work and become rich thanks to the policy reform. he has built his house. Chen Dengxue, however, did not do farm work seriously and left nothing. Now, he has been arrested, but who will raise his children?” said his father. ”

“It is so disappointing that he hasn’t returned the grain borrowed. We are getting old and cannot deal with so many stuffs,” his mother signed.

Before we left, his mother got a little sad, and she asked me: “has he been taken far away?” I nodded.

She said:”Could you tell him that I miss him and please let him go home as soon as he gets out?”She cried.

“Please tell him not to forget his children. He should take care of him as long as he gives birth to them,” his father added seriously.

They live on the mountain, so when we went down, we need to walk through a mountain road. Chen Dengxue’s younger brother sent us with a flashlight. He asked us: “what a tough work! When will you broadcast the film?”

Some other villagers sent us to the cars. I asked some young men: “how many years do you usually study in school?”

“Two or three years on average!”

“Is it the same to boys and girls?”

“Yes, we seldom have opportunities to be educated in middle school in the town.”

Poverty and poor education are certainly the main reasons why there are so many human traffickers. However, the evil characters in human nature are the real factors for crimes, such as selfishness, greed and laziness, etc.

Walking in the hometown of human traffickers, I could not help sighing with emotion, but I could do nothing. There seems something intangible shrouding over Hu Lan, Chen Dengxue and his wife which drives them to be criminals, but I cannot figure out what is that.

All in all, they are all hateful, pathetic and lamentable.

In several days, I will go to interview Chen Qifu, principal criminal of the foremost anti-trafficking case in 2000”. I am wondering whether his living environment and experience have something in common with that of Chen Dengxue.


I appreciate the editor of Hi Culture World very much for his encouragement of me to collect the experience and affection during the recording of anti-human trafficking. I also thank "Hi Culture World" to open a wonderful column for me. However, it is a pity that I have not made out more interesting experience in the column. Now, I am doing the post-editing work of the 11- episode large scale documentary telefilm “Heaven Has Tears - Warnings on China’s Cracking Down on Human Trafficking”(50 minutes per episode), so I hardly have time to edit the scatter materials written in the journey. Moreover, as the end of the year reaches, I have suspended my editing work. After finishing the film, I will make out my anti-trafficking diaries. Especially I want to thank all readers concerning the column for their support and encouragement. See you next year!

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