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    He Spent 23 Years Searching for His Daughter. Last Month, He Found Her.

    After his daughter was abducted in 2001, Shi Chunxin began a relentless campaign to find her and other Chinese victims of human trafficking. Now, his efforts have finally paid off.
    Jun 20, 2024#family#crime

    Over the past 23 years, Shi Chunxin has helped families across China track down their missing children. Last month, he made his most important find of all — his own daughter.

    On June 5, the 48-year-old beamed from ear to ear as he stood next to his daughter, Shi Ke, who was abducted over 20 years ago as a toddler. “Hello everyone, I am Shi Ke’s dad. Shi Ke has been found,” he said in a video posted by Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper.

    For the Shi family, life changed forever on April 15, 2001 — the day they became one of thousands of families to fall victim to the human trafficking trade.

    At the time, Shi Chunxin’s wife was riding a tricycle through their hometown in central China’s Henan province. A neighbor’s daughter was sitting behind her in the trailer, holding Shi Ke, then just a toddler.

    Then, a motorized tricycle suddenly pulled alongside them, and two people reached out and snatched Shi Ke. Before her mother could react, they had gone.

    During that period, the chances of finding an abducted child were slim. But Shi Chunxin refused to give up hope, beginning a relentless search that would see him become a high-profile advocate for China’s parents of missing children.

    For years, Shi crisscrossed the country, distributing leaflets, posting missing person notices, and appearing on TV shows dedicated to finding human trafficking victims. He drove from city to city in a van plastered with posters of his daughter and other missing children, hoping to raise awareness and find clues about the children’s whereabouts.

    There were many false dawns. Over the years, Shi and his wife met with more than 100 girls that had been identified as potentially matching their daughter’s description. But each time, their hopes were shattered.

    The couple later had two sons, but they never stopped searching for Shi Ke. In 2020, Shi Chunxin created an account on China’s version of TikTok, Douyin, and began livestreaming his daily efforts to track down his daughter.

    Through the account, which Shi named “Searching for Daughter Shi Ke,” the father connected with many other families with missing children, and he began looking out for any leads that might help them. These efforts led to a number of families reuniting — though, sadly, not his own.

    “In my 23 years and 46 days searching for Shi Ke, I helped 10 families find their loved ones,” Shi told The Paper.

    Then, on May 27, Shi finally received the news he’d been waiting for. The police called and informed him his daughter had been found after a DNA match.

    After confirming Shi Ke was willing to reconnect with them, Shi Chunxin and his wife began organizing a reunion. They bought her gifts and planned a banquet to reintroduce Shi Ke to their friends and relatives.

    It’s unclear what Shi Ke’s life was like after her abduction. The Shi family has preferred to allow their daughter to protect her privacy, with Shi Chunxin saying only that she was still studying.

    At the reunion in early June, Shi Ke appeared in front of the cameras wearing a baseball cap, face mask, and sunglasses. In contrast to her grinning father, she understandably appeared a little nervous.

    “I want to thank my biological parents for searching for me over these past 20 years, and also everyone who provided help,” Shi Ke said.

    Following the reunion, Shi Chunxin renamed his Douyin account “Shi Ke Has Been Found.” In a video posted on Thursday, he displayed the Father’s Day gift his daughter had given him — an electric shaver.

    In recent years, China has been stepping up efforts to combat human trafficking. According to the Ministry of Public Security, the platform it set up for sharing information about missing children had received 5,189 tips as of May 15, which have led to the recovery of 5,113 missing children.

    In response to rising public concern about the human trafficking trade, the ministry launched a nationwide campaign on March 18 aimed at optimizing police efforts to track down missing people. This involves enhancing information sharing among different precincts, introducing new search technologies, and pushing officers to investigate more leads.

    Authorities are also trying to improve the support offered to victims of human trafficking, such as providing better medical assistance, psychological counseling, access to education, and other essential services.

    Shi, meanwhile, says he will continue to drive his truck across the country, and is determined to help more families find their missing loved ones. “No matter how challenging the journey might be, with persistence and hard work, we can find them,” he told The Paper.

    (Header image: Shi Chunxin (center) poses for photos with his daughter (right), who was abducted 23 years ago, during their reunion at Daqi Village, Xun County, Henan province, June 5, 2024. From @顶端新闻 on WeChat)