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    Police Accused of Not Investigating Suspected Child Traffickers

    Father of nearly-abducted child ‘deeply disappointed’ over suspects being given just five days’ detention.

    Four women accused of trying to steal a toddler from his mother in Beijing will be released after five days’ detention for “disrupting public order,” the child’s father posted Thursday on microblogging platform Weibo, along with photos of police documents that appear to corroborate his claims.

    In his account of what happened to his 11-month-old toddler, and how the police handled it, the man said that he is deeply disappointed in China’s law enforcement.

    On Tuesday morning, the father wrote, his wife was waiting for the elevator at a department store in Beijing’s Fengtai District, along with their son in his stroller, when three women surrounded her. One of the women — who police later identified as a 39-year-old from Inner Mongolia — said to the mother, “Your boy is so handsome,” and suddenly tried to snatch him from the stroller, only to be stopped by the child’s safety harness, the father recounted. When his wife tried to intervene, the two other women — both in their 60s and from Tianjin — restrained her.

    “They’re taking my baby, call the police!” the mother shouted as she grabbed at the women’s clothes. According to her husband’s post, the commotion attracted the attention of people from the department store. A male employee rushed to the mother’s aid; when he told the women he had called the police, they disappeared.

    Later the same day, the father’s post continued, police arrested the three women and another woman surnamed Li, who claimed she had mistaken the child for her own grandson.

    When the couple went to the police station on Wednesday afternoon, they were shocked when the police told them the four women would not face criminal charges — instead, they would be detained for five days for “disrupting public order,” a civil offense. The purported police report photos the father included with his post appear to confirm these claims.

    “The criminals tried to take an 11-month-old toddler by force but are only detained for five days on civil charges!!!” wrote the distressed man.

    According to his post, the father suspects that the police opted not to press criminal charges because it would save them time and paperwork. “I just realized that it’s not that there aren’t child trafficking cases, but rather that the police tend to dismiss these cases as family disputes,” he wrote. “This is Beijing, the national capital. If this kind of thing is happening here, I can only imagine what could be happening in other provinces and cities!”

    The father — who did not give his name in the Weibo post — had not responded to Sixth Tone’s interview request by time of publication.

    News of the case was soon circulated widely on Chinese social media, eliciting outrage from netizens. “Do we always have to make a fuss online — where our posts are at risk of being deleted — in order to get fairness?” commented one Weibo user.

    On Thursday night, the official Weibo account of the Beijing police posted a notice asking for help finding a missing 9-year-old boy. Two hours later, they posted to say that the boy had been found — but by Friday, many of the comments under the two posts pertained to Tuesday’s alleged child trafficking case, with many netizens asking the police how they intended to handle it.

    By Friday morning, the father’s initial posts about the incident — including the one that included photos of the alleged police report — had been deleted by Weibo, he said in a later post. Yet another post he wrote on Friday about filing an appeal with the Fengtai District police had received over 5,000 comments and 10,000 likes by time of publication.

    Just after noon on Friday, the Beijing police posted on Weibo to say that the Fengtai District station had received the couple’s appeal on Thursday, and that the municipal public security bureau had dispatched a team to investigate the case, the results of which would be announced later. “Children are the future of the country, and cases involving minors have always been high-priority for the Beijing police,” the notice said, adding: “We welcome society’s supervision of our work.”

    Due in part to the now-abolished one-child policy and a traditional preference for sons, child trafficking has long been a serious concern in China. According to figures from Reunion — an Amber Alert-like platform developed by the Ministry of Public Security — just over 3,000 children were reported missing in the first two years after the service launched in May 2016. Nearly 98 percent of them were found.

    “If human traffickers who fail in their attempts only get five days’ detention, more families will surely become victims,” the father wrote in his first post. “If the cost of committing a crime is this cheap, it will only embolden the criminals.”

    Editor: David Paulk.

    (Header image: People sit on a bench at a shopping mall in Zhengzhou, Henan province, July 20, 2014. Ma Jian/VCG)