Examining the PSB’s 2011 Kidnapping Report

Recently, the PSB released a report on its nationwide anti-kidnapping activities in 2011 which contains some impressive statistics. You can find an English AFP piece on the report here, or read the full report in Chinese.

The report is, unsurprisingly, triumphant and self-congratulatory, and there are some things to celebrate. Chief among them is the claim that the PSB rescued 8,660 kidnapped children ((This number does include children who were trafficked into China from other countries, mostly Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam)) and 15,458 trafficked women over 2011. That’s great, although with media reporting on this subject controlled we more or less have to take them at their word as there’s no way to independently confirm those numbers. Still, even one child rescued is good news.

That said, as someone who has spent the last year talking to the parents of kidnapped children, it is difficult to read the report without getting angry. It states, for example, that the disappearances of children are uniformly treated as criminal cases, and that these cases are to be “swiftly developed and investigated” with the same urgency the PSB might use in pursuing a murder case. But in actuality, everything we’ve heard from parents indicates that this is not how things work in practice. In every case we’ve looked into, police initially tell parents to look for their children themselves, assuming the child has run away or is visiting friends, and telling parents they won’t take the case until the child has been missing 24 hours ((This is not a legal regulation, but it does seem to be the de facto practice at many local police stations.)). When they do take the case, investigations are slow and remarkably lazy. In the 2011 disappearance of Lei Xiaoxia (one of the subjects of our film), it took police months to request surveillance footage from the school where Lei went missing — by which time it was already deleted — and nearly a year after her disappearance, the police still haven’t interviewed any potential witnesses.

Interestingly, the 24 hour window after a child’s disappearance is something that is explicitly addressed in the PSB report, which calls it ‘a golden window of opportunity’ and mandates police to begin their investigations as soon as a disappearance is reported. Clearly, though, the national PSB has some discipline issues lower in the ranks, because many local police stations are not actually doing this.

Another lauded accomplishment is the DNA database, which allows parents to get free DNA tests so that if their child is ever discovered as the result of an anti-kidnapping operation, they can be quickly and unequivocally identified as the parents. This is very much a good thing, but again, the execution has been spotty at best. In the case of one of our subjects — coincidentally, Lei Xiaoxia’s parents — police demanded they pay for the test themselves, and wouldn’t back down until the parent of another kidnapped child who was more familiar with the law called them and asked why they were trying to charge money for a service that was meant to be free. This sort of situation is not uncommon, and the availability of the DNA database also needs to be more widely publicized, as some parents aren’t aware that they have the right to a free DNA test.

Another positive development has been the official anti-trafficking Weibo, which became an avenue for tips collection. The account collected 2,000 tips on trafficking cases in 2011. This is not to be confused with Yu Jianrong’s “rescue street children” campaign, which was quickly marginalized in early 2011 thanks in part to condemnations on the opinion pages of Chinese papers like the Global Times.

Analyzing the Numbers

Of course, the report doesn’t mention how many kidnapping cases remain unsolved. If there were 8,660 children returned home in 2011 ((Note that the kids may have been kidnapped years or decades ago, their cases were solved in 2011 but they were kidnapped and sold at different times)), what percentage of the total number of kidnapping cases is that? Going by the official government numbers, which put kidnappings of children at around 10,000 per year, that would make the child-returned-home rate about eighty percent. Going by the the US’s estimates in its human rights report, which pegs yearly child kidnappings at around 20,000, the solve rate is about forty percent.

Previously, I had been inclined to believe the US government estimates rather than higher independent estimates, which run up to 70,000 children kidnapped per year, but looking at the evidence we have — since there are no public statistics about this issue — it becomes very difficult to believe that only 20,000 children are kidnapped per year.

Now, obviously the numbers we have are very small, but the cases we’ve looked at do offer a good spread across victim demographics, old vs. new cases, and case types, so they may give us a decent sample of “average” missing child cases, although they are limited geographically to mostly eastern central China. Of the eight parent groups we’ve interviewed directly since March 2011, to date none of the families has seen their child returned. Of their larger social circle of dozens of parents of missing children, one child has been returned over the past year. Very conservatively estimating that loose social group to contain at least twenty sets of parents, that puts the solve rate at more like 5%.

Now, those sample sizes are too small to be scientific, and even if they were larger, they’re biased by location and also by selection — we only know about the cases of parents who want their cases publicized and have been in touch with other parents; some parents of missing children may choose to stay quiet and put their trust in the police rather than trying to look for themselves. It would probably be inaccurate to try to extrapolate much from the anecdotal data I’ve presented above — although we’re trying to figure out a way we might conduct a more exhaustive survey somehow — it does make the Chinese government figure of 10,000 children kidnapped per year look preposterously low, and even the US government figure seems to perhaps be an underestimation. If you assume that the solve rate really is 86% like Chinese government statistics would suggest, there would be only a 0.001% chance of us picking eight sets of parents and none of them having their children rescued ((although there are selection issues here in that they all agreed to speak with us, which not every parent would)). Could we really be that unlucky?

Anyway, we’re looking into how we might be able to analyze this sort of thing more systematically and scientifically for our film, but without trustworthy public statistics, it is very difficult. Anecdotal data is troublesome to work with, but if nothing else, I’m quite sure that the Public Security Bureau has not earned the triumphant tone of its yearly anti-kidnapping report. Although many of its policies sound good in theory, they don’t seem to be being put into practice, and one wonders, if the public security bureau can’t manage its own officers, why the hell should anyone trust it with finding their children?

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0 thoughts on “Examining the PSB’s 2011 Kidnapping Report”

  1. BTW, C,
    as it is obvious you believe Chinese government has hid a lot of serious issues about children, we must both agree AiWeiWei is an asshole as all he cares is public attention, not the wellbeings of children.(all he did was to get a list of children’s names who died in earthquake)

    Like

  2. Let me teach you a trick, C,

    As western media can’t wait to dig the dark side on china, so if media didn’t mention much about the cbild slaves in china, then it means that it is not an serious problem. Does it make sense to you?

    Of course, you cab search around, collect several cases and put them together to prove how serious the problem is, like Al Sharpton does: every time a white policeman kills a black, the whole NYPD are bunch of assholes.

    Ironically a Chinese student was killed by three black youths near Al Sharpton’s headquarter and he didn’t say a single word.

    You don’t have a point. My apology, since when Al Sharpton has a point.

    Like

  3. “As western media can’t wait to dig the dark side on china, so if media didn’t mention much about the cbild slaves in china, then it means that it is not an serious problem.”
    —LOL.

    http://carm.org/logical-fallacies-or-fallacies-argumentation

    See “cause and effect” and “begging the question/circular argument”, since that’s what you’ve offered up here. The lack of media attention COULD mean it is not a serious problem. OR it could mean they simply weren’t aware of it. OR maybe they had no verification of the actual size of the problem. OR it could mean many other things. You should read that link…might be helpful for you.

    “we must both agree AiWeiWei is an asshole as all he cares is public attention, not the wellbeings of children.(all he did was to get a list of children’s names who died in earthquake)”
    —LOL.

    See “red herring”. The fact that he has not publicized the plight of a whole host of child issues in China does not make him an “asshole”.

    Hopefully, studying that list of logical fallacies will help you to avoid making more of them the next time you make a comment.

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  4. I am thinking about implementing logical fallacies into the comments policy of this blog, since some of us — cough — seem to have a serious problem with them.

    With regard to the brick kilns, they’re still a serious problem. The idea that if the West isn’t reporting on something it isn’t happening is idiotic, especially at a time when there are so few Western reporters in China. (Would you really expect a few hundred people to be able to cover all the negative news in a country of 1.3 billion, even if that was all they wanted to do 24-7?).

    When they flared up and got some media attention, the government cracked down, and what seems to have happened in response is that they moved further inland, to more remote locations. They are definitely still around; as I said, one of our subjects has been “raiding” these places for the past five years or so and has rescued more than 100 children.

    @ Wahaha, re: your other point, as I explained to you, I did not choose these subjects selectively in the hopes of finding cases that wouldn’t be solved. You obviously don’t believe me, so there’s really nothing more to say about that.

    As for why should the government help solve problems the media is critical of: because that’s their fucking job. Are you really suggesting it’s OK for the government to withhold help on a problem like this because they’re sensitive flowers and the big meanies in the media are writing criticial things about them? Or that the government WOULD step in and fix things if the media just shut up about them?

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  5. When they flared up and got some media attention, the government cracked down, and what seems to have happened in response is that they moved further inland, to more remote locations.

    ********************

    I guess your logic on China is always turning them into political issues.

    If you had known what logic is, you would’ve thought of poverty is the major reason for most problems.

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  6. As for why should the government help solve problems the media is critical of: because that’s their fucking job.

    ***************

    Let me give you a simple lesson of logic :

    For goverment to BE ABLE TO help people, government needs money and power.

    When 100 people can block a plan that would help 100,000 people, there is not much government can do.

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  7. When they flared up and got some media attention, the government cracked down, and what seems to have happened in response is that they moved further inland …

    ******************

    I NEVER deny it.

    On the other hand, I don’t see how “free” world tolerates different opinion.

    Frankly speakly, they don’t even have different opinions. All they did is blaming everything on government, exactly what rich run media wants.

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  8. With regard to the brick kilns, they’re still a serious problem. The idea that if the West isn’t reporting on something it isn’t happening is idiotic, especially at a time when there are so few Western reporters in China.

    *********************
    “they’re still a serious problem.”

    Then logically, Ai WeiWei must be an asshole.

    Though you had no clue of what your statement would lead to logically.

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  9. @ Wahaha: I think Ai Weiwei probably is an asshole, although I’ve never met him personally.

    That said, he’s done far more for Chinese children by collecting those names and getting attention for them than YOU have done, so that makes you a super asshole…right?

    Like

  10. Custer

    From what happened in 60s, you should know the cost of going into a wrong way.
    what i am doing now is helping both Chinese and Americans to realize what asinine media and journalists try to lead them to.

    Like

  11. @wahaha
    let ME teach you a trick. when someone hands you direct evidence of bias in “western media” (which you are attacking to enlighten the world), jump on it. you missed how nobody paid attention to how much good the chinese police forces are doing for the people. For all I know, they rescued a Foxconn facility’s worth of slaves. On the other hand, CCP media never consolidated those numbers either. What does that tell us? It tells us we don’t agree about Ai. (all you seem to be doing is confusing people with illogical statements) I for one would appreciate a little more thought in your posts (and better language).

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  12. @wahaha

    “For goverment to BE ABLE TO help people, government needs money and power.
    When 100 people can block a plan that would help 100,000 people, there is not much government can do.”

    can you explain how the mighty ccp controlled government (in my opinion the least in debt and closest to police state of the super and not so super powers), could have 100 people that can block a plan to help 100,000 people.
    Don’t tell me you actually have thoughts on how the ccp is fractionated on the inside.

    oh, wait, was that supposed to be 2 simple logic lessons?

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  13. “poverty is the major reason for most problems.”
    —that may well be true. But it does NOT serve as an excuse for child kidnapping, child trafficking, child labourers, and child abuse.

    “When 100 people can block a plan that would help 100,000 people, there is not much government can do.”
    —this statement has nothing to do with logic, despite what its writer apparently believes. This is simply a statement that has no foundation or basis. The relevance to the topic at hand is also highly questionable. Someone here really needs to first learn what “logic” is, then learn to avoid making fallacies thereof.

    “On the other hand, I don’t see how “free” world tolerates different opinion.”
    —what does this statement have to do with an observation that brick kilns moved in response to CCP government action? It seems someone is having problems not only with logic, but with relevance.

    ““they’re still a serious problem.”…Then logically, Ai WeiWei must be an asshole…Though you had no clue of what your statement would lead to logically.”
    —seriously LOL. Does the writer of this gem even know what “logic” is?

    http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/
    Yours is an “unsound” argument. Your ‘argument’ is this:
    1. If you don’t publicize all “serious” problems with kids, you are an “asshole”
    2. Ai Weiwei did not publicize all “serious” problems with kids.
    3. So Ai is an “asshole”
    …unfortunately for you, premise 1 is false. Not publicizing or drawing attention to all the serious problems with kids in the world does NOT make you an “asshole”. You know, in the future, before speaking about “logic”, go out and learn some first.

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  14. Cephaloless,
    You are funny guy.
    Who told you there are no data? I guess if custer hadn’t started this thread, you would have said no data on how many children were rescued.
    Well, you DON’T LIKE the number, it is not big enough for your political fiasta.

    On your second post, google “Barclays center”.

    You teach me? What do you know besides what “free” media told you?

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  15. Custer,
    ok, ai the asshole did NOT donate money to the victims of earthquake.

    And this is the guy who is highly respected by “free” media.

    Do i have to say more?

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  16. Cephaloless,

    It seems to me that you are clueless on how everything works in real world.

    Let me teach you with a REAL WORLD problem:

    Suppose 100 families have to be relocated for a project. Government agrees to compensate each family 100,000. 99 agree(but not sign contacts yet).
    But one family demands 200,000.

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  17. My question to you is:

    How much more money does government have to pay to settle the issue if government is willing to pay 200,000?

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  18. “Who told you there are no data? I guess if custer hadn’t started this thread, you would have said no data on how many children were rescued.
    Well, you DON’T LIKE the number, it is not big enough for your political fiasta.”
    I don’t get it. I keep saying I can’t find a number. (again, review what you type before submitting)

    “ok, ai did NOT donate money to the victims of earthquake.
    And this is the guy who is highly respected by “free” media.
    Do i have to say more?”
    Please say more, lots more if you want it to make sense.

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  19. I wonder how you’re aware of what Ai does with his money. How do you know he didn’t donate? I’m guessing you “know” this in the same way you “know” that I just went to some village to find people with unsolved missing children cases because all I want to do is make the government look bad.

    (I would guess you’re right that Ai Weiwei didn’t donate to any Chinese official earthquake charities, but honestly I wouldn’t have either if I hadn’t been forced to by my boss, because you never know where that money is actually going. So my ‘real’ donation was to an international charity organization that was also helping instead…my guess is that Ai just gave money directly to people while he was in Sichuan doing the investigation. But even if he didn’t, he certainly donated a lot of his time, and as we know, time is money.)

    Also, say on topic, or I will ban you. It’s too much of a pain to have to keep going in and deleting your comments.

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  20. “ok, ai the asshole did NOT donate money to the victims of earthquake…And this is the guy who is highly respected by “free” media.”
    —LOL. THe first statement is simply unsubstantiated. Do you know that he didn’t donate? And how would you know this?

    http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/

    THe second statement makes an argument using the “poisoning the well” fallacy. You’ve not established that Ai is an “asshole”, nor have you established any reason to even suspect that he might be an “asshole”. You then try to question media respect for him based on an unsupported character assassination. I see that you have not studied that link very effectively.

    Are you trying to produce an example of every logical fallacy listed in that link? You’ve got the potential, and you’re already well on your way.

    Love your “wahaha’s world” examples, BTW. I see very little has changed since FM days. But what do those hilarious examples have to do with the PSB report on kidnapped children?

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  21. [……Aaaaand banned. If you’re interested in commenting again, you’re welcome to contact me in a few months’ time and I’ll consider it. Until then, maybe spend some time reading the comments policy over and over again until it sinks in. -Ed.]

    Like

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