“If I lost you, I would rather die.” my mother once said. It is hard to believe that each year, as many as 70,000 children are kidnapped in China. They are not held for ransom; rather, they are sold. Some are sold into new families who raise them like adopted children; others are sold into slave labor, marriage, prostitution, and lives on the street. Most children who are kidnapped will never see their parents again.

For a person who is born and raised in Shanghai, everything above totally sounded like a horror movie trailer. In my entire life, none of the people I know or met had lost their children. My family is perfectly normal and I was happily spoiled as their only beloved daughter.

In big cities, boy and girl are loved by their parents equally and I have never felt any difference in my life with any gender issue. There is even a wildly popular ideas that having a daughter is much better than a son as the daughter is more caring and she never forgets the parents after the marriage.

But, wait a moment, we are not just talking about big fancy cities like Shanghai. Consider yourself as a young couple expecting your first child in one of the poorest and under-developed provinces of China. You are not so well educated and perhaps your income can only support a small family. Traditional mores hold sway around you, most important in the preference for sons over daughters. Perhaps hard labor work is still needed for your family to make its living. Perhaps only sons may inherit land. Perhaps a daughter is deemed to join another family on marriage and you want someone to care for you when you are old.

So what would you do if you can’t have a son?

Reports said that the babies from impoverished areas of China, like Yunnan and Sichuan, sold their children, while couples in more wealthy provinces like Fujian and Guangdong bought baby boys from traffickers. People who only want boys and don’t want to pay the fines so they sell their daughters to the traffickers. That’s what the traffickers will tell the adoptive parents and those parents will tell their child: “Because your parents didn’t want you, they sold you or left you on the streets”.

Therefore a major issue for China is how to deal with the difficulties of the extremes of poverty and wealth. Trafficking of children is very much associated with poverty and, because of the migrant population, a very large number of people who are leaving rural areas and looking for opportunities in urban areas, this affects both adults, young people and at times children.

Living with dead hearts

To get a better picture of the child trafficking in China, go online and watch the film: livingwithdeadhearts.com. It can be watched for free, though there are options to buy it on DVD or in a downloadable version with deleted scenes and director’s commentary. However, a little warning as it is very hard to watch without drops of many tears.

No nightmare is more chilling than having one’s child stolen away. In China, there are no official statistics for child abduction and many parents complain at best of police indifference to their missing children reports, thousands of young children — typically from poor families — are kidnapped, transported hundreds of miles, and sold for $500 to $5000. Living with Dead Hearts is a crowdsource funded documentary filmed for more than two years and covered multiple Chinese provinces. The film follows several parents whose children have been kidnapped as they struggle to track down their kids and to make sense of what has happened to them. Along the way, the film also looks at the experience of kidnapping and growing up in a strange family from the child’s perspective and examines the lives of street children.

According to news report, most elder child ends up as prostitute or slave laborer. Young ones and specially baby boys are bought by people who want to raise the child as their own. Healthy young girls tend to be sold for domestic or international adoption, sometimes even put to beg on the streets.

Adoption as children trafficking

It is a taboo topic for the Chinese government, and not making public statistics about the number of children kidnapped or the number of children sold into adoption. Because of the implications for the tens of thousands of families in the United States and elsewhere in the West who have adopted children from China – Americans alone adopted nearly 3000 Chinese children in 2012.

From Families Thru International Adoption, Inc.’s services (ftia.org), the cost to Adopt from China is staring from USD19,025, including an Orphanage Donation (Payable in China). This amount is donated to the orphanage in China for the care of the children. The fee is determined by which province the child is living in. This fee is RMB35,000 (Chinese currency). However, an average annual income for a Chinese family in 2012 was RMB13,000, or about USD2,100.

Time to help

In the end of the movie, it mentions this: If you live in China, there are also some steps you can take when you see street children to attempt to help them, although you may need the help of a Chinese-speaking friend to do this stuff. Try to get a photo of any children you see begging or performing on the street, and make a note of the location, date, and time. Report this information to local police immediately — though sadly, they’ll probably ignore it — but also upload it to the web in the following ways to ensure it gets maximum exposure:

• Send a message with the photos, date, time, and location to Yu Jianrong’s “saving street children” microblog account; they should re-tweet it and will likely share it with a number of missing child groups on Chinese social media for you. (weibo.com/jiejiuqier)

• Upload the photo and information to Baidu Xunren (xunren.baidu.com)

• Report the information to Baby Come Home (www.baobeihuijia.com)

There is HOPE

According to Xinhua news agency, police have rescued more than 54,000 children and cracked down on 11,000 traffickers since 2009. Zhang Baoyan, founder of Baby Come Home, a non-governmental group that helps search for missing children and offers support to their parents all across China. Since 2007, Zhang and her husband Qin Yanyou have provided a platform for missing children to share information and help search for their family. So far, Zhang has developed a network of more than 20,000 volunteers nationwide, and through them has helped more than 600 families reunite. Now one of the best solutions currently being tried is a national DNA database set up by the Ministry of Public Security that theoretically allows for testing of children to determine whether they have been abducted.