Jiang Shan has never really known what it means to have parents. He was kidnapped and sold immediately after birth.
For eight years, police and social workers tried but failed to find his parents. But now, they are hoping that social networking websites might be able to help Jiang reunite with his parents.
Jiang has been living in a child care center in the city of Jinjiang, located in southeast China's Fujian province, since he was just one month old. The center shelters 24 kids who were saved from human trafficking. They have been kept in public care, as police have been unable to identify their parents.
"The kids like to ask why everyone else has parents.I can only let them wonder. I tell them that one day, they will see their parents show up," said Xu Xiurui, superintendent of Jinjiang Child Foster Care.
A recent visit by a charity fund director may help bring an end to the children's wait. The China Social Assistance Foundation (CSAF), an organization known for its efforts to fight human trafficking, has started searching for parents on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Photos and birth information for all 24 kids at the care center has been posted online. The online campaign has attracted the attention of celebrities and garnered tens of thousands of reposts.
More than 60 newspapers in southwest China, where the majority of the country's human trafficking victims come from, have published articles about the children's plight, a CSAF director surnamed Li said Friday.
Yang Tianfu, a veteran anti-abduction officer from the municipal police force, said samples of the children's DNA have been added to a national database that logs the DNA information of parents who report their children missing. However, no matches have been found.
Yang said some parents may have no access to the database, as they live in poor and remote areas.
"Some may actually be responsible for selling their children in the first place," Yang added.
Not everyone is happy with the online campaign.
"Charity is not a show," said Shi Qingliang, a municipal publicity official. "The campaign puts the children's misery under the spotlight. It may hurt them when all their waiting and expectations amount to nothing."
Deng Fei, a public welfare activist who initiated the online campaign, defended his group's rationale.
"It's the most effective method we can think of. With social networking, we can achieve a huge flow of information. It's social mobilization with a low cost but high efficiency," Deng said, adding that the online anti-abduction campaign has helped more than 10 kids reunite with their parents.
Xu said the care center's staff attend to the children's every need. "We play games with them, drive them to school and even hire a tutor to help them with their studies."
But to give the children a sense of family, the city's civil affairs authorities have been considering finding foster homes. "We cannot determine whether the kids have been abandoned or not. Therefore, adoption is not a legal option," Xu said.
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