China's Netizens Help Reunite Father and Son

Here's a story that challenges the commonly-held notion in the West that the Chinese don't care much for coming together for a charitable cause (highlighted last year during the much publicized Gates/Buffet billionaire banquet fiasco in Beijing): Peng Gaofeng has been searching for his son Wenle since 2008, when the boy, then 3 years old, disappeared from a public square near Peng's shop. Since then, Peng has traveled throughout China looking for his son, and a journalist helped him post his son's photos to a microblog.

Earlier this month, a netizen contacted Peng, telling him he saw a boy resembling his son. On Tuesday, Peng was reunited with his son. Phoenix Weekly Reporter Deng Fei filmed the emotional reunion. Watch the video, which was edited and translated by the Wall Street Journal, after the jump.

This case highlights how microblogs (Twitter is one example familiar with Americans--not as much for Chinese, as it's banned here) in China are increasingly being used to organize for a special cause; in this case, widespread child abduction (State media in China estimates 200,000 children are abducted a year in China--many by human trafficking gangs).

Last month, scholar Yu Jianrong, launched a microblog that now serves as a repository where internet users post pictures of children begging throughout China to help connect them with their parents. Yu says he's received four calls from parents who tell him they've seen what they think are their children on his blog. None of the cases have been resolved yet. In Peng's case, he told the press that he believed his son's abductor took him to raise as his own son. The abductor allegedly died last year of cancer.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.
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The path of social media is not a reversible process and it interesting to see what such a large country does with its beginning tastes of social media. I have spent the last two weeks in Beijing and have already been asked for my name for Facebook, QQ and other social service sites. As the world has seen in other regions these services will not only encapsulate the whole youth but the rest of the population. As a result China's government is seeing a heightened awareness on many issues and allowing freedoms of speech that previously would not be allowed.
Despite all the progress that China has made in recent years many issues do exist and child trafficking is a major example. However, the people are better connecting and will be more easily heard in future developments. Congrats to the father and son here and best of luck to them.

I hope the best for all. If those who committed the crime of abduction should be held accountable. Please follow the story for all.

What a refreshing post! Well, mostly. Fantastic that Peng was reunited with his son as the thought of losing a child to any circumstance is truly agonizing. So, truly uplifting! In another sense though, it is good for me to hear that there is still a strong sense of community & care in China. I think it's true that recent reports of China in the West indicate a loss of community &/or something to believe in. Perhaps China really is struggling ethically in some ways, but more likely these reports stem from fear; China is viewed by many as a threat, so to propogate such notions bolsters this general fear. Clearly however, stories like this, that include members of the community taking action to reclaim their children demonstrates a strong sense of humanity.
Not so uplifting however, is the fact that this type of community action is needed. The estimation of 200,000 children/year abducted in China is startling & in that sense, global community action is needed to stop human trafficking.

This story caught my attention. Back home in America if a child is abducted all forms of communication are used in an amber alert. It was only last month unfortunately that my TV program was stopped to describe a man and his car that had abducted a child. I came to China and didn’t know Facebook was banned. I depend on social networks to know what is going on. It is unfortunate that such things could be used to save a child and it is banned in China. It is awesome that a blog has been started to help out Chinese children and families that have been separated.

Thanks for writing about this issue. I had read a previous article on it on another site some time ago. It is fantastic that Peng was reunited with his son. It is particularly painful for anyone to lose a child but to have them stolen and then possibly sold by child traffickers seems to me an absolutely horrifying ordeal for a parent. Other loses you can cope with over time but the constant unknown and what if's would be emotionally difficult to manage. I see families and young children interacting in Beijing and have observed parents/caregivers are watchful of their children. Not in a bad way, out of fear, but they don't seem to ignore them for other distractions like in the U.S. I wonder if this is in response to information about missing children circulating in new and social media or a social, cultural attitude toward children. All good parents seem to put their children first both in the U.S and China but I think the one child policy in china has made children particularly precious to their families. This policy might have created social problems in China in the future for many reasons but I think any society that values children is moving in a good direction. I hope that the government will continue to allow people to assist parents using media and the news. I think the experience in the US has been is the faster and the wider news is published the more likely a child will be found. I'd hope that the government could support a information network for parents.

Ihave not heard much about the Chinese having organizations to help each other through giving of time or money and this blog has brought that to the front of my mind. It is really interesting that usually in China it is an individual family that works mostly on finding a child, when in the United States it is an individual family that works mostly on finding a child, when in the United States it is a an individual family that works mostly on finding a child, when in the United States it is a widespread search. When I worked at Toys R Us we had a specific policy and procedure whenever a child was lost to ensure that child was found within the store quickly. Ithink it shows how the cultures are extremely different from each other. With the massive amount of people that cohabitate here it should be easy for Chinese to find a missing person when walking past thousands of people each day. That may be counterproductive though to have so many people in this situation.

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