China blog spotlights missing-child problem

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A Chinese website that helps parents find missing children has become a sensation, shining a light on child abductions and the growing power of Twitter-like Internet services in China.

The microblogging site swept into the national spotlight earlier this week when it was used to help reunite a young father with his six-year-old son, who had been missing for three years after being kidnapped.

The emotional reunion of Peng Gaofeng, 30, with his son Peng Wenle, was captured on video and the footage quickly went viral on the Internet. The boy's identity was still to be confirmed by DNA tests.

Since then, parents of missing children have seized on the site, which had 170,000 followers as of Thursday. Six more children have been found so far, according to reports.

The microblog was set up in late January on leading portal Sina.com by Yu Jianrong, a professor of rural issues who has gained a reputation for activism on behalf of China's downtrodden classes.

The blog encourages people to snap pictures of child beggars and orphans and upload them in the hope that parents may see their missing child and track them down.

Abductions and human trafficking have become serious public concerns after a string of revelations, including a shocking 2007 scandal in which thousands were forced into slave labor in brick yards and mines across the nation.

Mounting outrage spurred a government crackdown, which according to state media resulted in thousands of adult and child victims being rescued.

In one recent case, the operator of an unlicensed shelter for disabled people in southwestern China sold at least 70 mentally ill workers to work as slaves in factories across the country.

However, there is a widespread public lack of confidence -- often expressed on the Internet -- in authorities' willingness to fully address the problem.

Some parents searching for children have told state media that their attempts had been routinely thwarted by inertia and indifference from officials and police.

One follower of the missing-child blog posted a comment saying it was up to citizens to look out for their own rights, as the government could not be counted on to do so.

"Our government has so many failures. But activities like this provide hope," it said.

Yu, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a leading government think tank, said on his blog that he had launched the campaign after a desperate parent sought his help in finding an abducted child.

The professor was already well-known for his efforts to help ordinary Chinese people who claimed mistreatment at the hands of officials.

Yu was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

The missing-child microblog is at http://t.sina.com.cn/1932619445

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