In China, 190 children are snatched every day – more than image twice the number taken in England and image Wales in a year. The Chinese government does not acknowledge the extent of the problem, or the cause. The Single Child Policy has made it essential to have a son, leading to the abortion of more than 40 million girls and setting the price on a boy’s head at more than six months’ wages.

This article by Clare Dwyer Hogg in today’s Observer, is compulsive and essential reading. It highlights the desperate plight of one family whose young son was abducted. His picture has even been added on a poker set – a poker set that poignantly features missing children on every card.

Chin Lie was snatched 18 months ago when he was five years old. He was playing at his grandmother’s vegetable stall in Sichuan, when Zhang, a trusted neighbour, passed by. Offering to bring Chen Jie back to his mother – and persuading the reluctant boy with the promise of sweets – Zhang left, taking the child with him. This was the last time Chen Jie was seen by his family.

Later, when parents and grandmother realised that neither had the little boy, they ran to Zhang’s door, desperately hoping he was there. Calmly, Zhang claimed that after giving him money for sweets, he’d left Chen Jie at the apartment block. Their suspicion of his involvement in their son’s disappearance could not be translated into evidence – even though when the grandmother confronted him later, she said he yelled, ‘I sold the kid, OK?’ After police questioning, however, Zhang was free to go about his normal business.

His mother Li admits she has contemplated suicide, the grief is so great. Li and Lung Chen are determined to do anything to get their son back, but their options are severely limited. The media is too close to the government to be used as a tool, and even joining a parents’ support group must be done in secret.

The family saved up 600RMB – that’s £40 – to put Chen Jie’s picture on a poker set that features missing children on every card; in their desperation they’re gambling on gamblers. 

Putting up ‘missing’ posters of Chen Jie, his eyes staring out brightly even from a photocopy, was risky because it’s forbidden (the authorities aren’t keen to have the reminder of missing children on show), but they did it. Hiring a private detective cost money, but they did that, because the detective has a reputation for successful rescue missions. Speaking to Westerners about their plight was dangerous, but they’ve done that, too.

Chen Jie’s story, and the plight of his forlorn and helpless parents under China’s One Child Policy, is to be featured in a Channel 4 documentary on Monday, 8 October called China’s Stolen Children. It has been made by the same award winning team of The Dying Rooms, which in 1995 uncovered the neglect of abandoned children in Chinese state-run orphanages.

In memory of those who are still missing.

P.S. Although my blog is banned in China, I’m sure the news will filter through to Chen Jie’s family that we care for their plight in the UK.