How much will you give me for my son?

Just the other day I wrote about how travel makes the news more relevant: “If I have gained anything from my travels it’s not a well-traveled savviness, envied by others, but an increased caring.”

That being the case, when I read this story in the NY Times by on Chinese boys being bought, stolen, and sold, I couldn’t help but think of Dewan and Zhu Chun’s son Li Xin.

The crazy thing about this story is a man who bought a son didn’t think there was anything wrong with paying money for another human being until he learned that the child had been kidnapped. I try to look at the world with an open mind. My first reaction to this was repulsion, but then I try to be culturally sensitive: “I should respect different ways of thinking.” Before long I circle back around to repulsion.

(A big thanks to Larry at Wiley for pointing out this article)

Anyhow here are a few excerpts:

They dragged us by our hair and said, ‘How dare you question the government,’ ” said Peng Dongying, who lost her 4-year-old son. “I hate myself for my child’s disappearance, but I hate society more for not caring. All of us have this pain in common, and we will do anything to get back our children.”

In some cases, local officials may even encourage people desperate for a son to buy one. After their 3-month-old son died, Zhou Xiuqin said, the village family planning official went to her home and tried to comfort her and her husband, who was compelled to have a vasectomy after the birth of the boy, their second child. “He said, ‘Don’t cry, stop crying, you can always buy another one,’ ” Ms. Zhou recalled.

Their love for their new son was boundless. They bought him new clothing and had their daughter drop out of middle school to take care of him. They did not think much of the fact that Jiabao did not understand the dialect spoken in that part of Fujian and seemed indifferent to the local cuisine. Mr. Su insisted that he never imagined that the boy had been stolen.

Last August, Mr. Su learned the truth after the police in Sichuan Province arrested the man who had sold them the child. The man, part of a ring of seven people who had abducted 11 children, had sold four of them to families in their township. The man, according to the police, has since been given a 12-year sentence.

By the time the couple got home from work the day they got the news, their son and the three other stolen children in their village had already been taken away by the police. The couple was inconsolable. “We were lied to, we were swindled,” Mr. Su said as his wife’s eyes welled up.
There was, however, a small consolation. A sympathetic policeman in Sichuan, the province where the boy was stolen, helped put them in touch with his birth parents. The two couples have since been in frequent contact; Mr. Su said the real parents held no grudge, acknowledging that the family had cared for their son well.

The father was so grateful, he told Mr. Su he would be on the lookout for local families who had two sons but were too poor to care for them. “He said that way I don’t need to deal with child traffickers anymore,” Mr. Su said.

Li Xin and Me at his village near Chongqing:

Li Xin and Me

Melissa says:

Two things strike me. One is what you wrote, “The crazy thing about this story is a man who bought a son didn’t think there was anything wrong with paying money for another human being until he learned that the child had been kidnapped.” It’s the “paying for another human being” part. What about infertile couples who spend thousands on donor eggs or surrogacy? That is legal in our country (and can ignite debate as well).

The other line is “…and had their daughter drop out of middle school to take care of him.” Yes, I should “respect different ways of thinking,” as you said, but that’s difficult when it goes against your own values.

Anyway–interesting piece. Thanks for posting.

Kelsey says:


Remember when I visited the White Swan Hotel and learned about the Coming Home Barbie? . I guess in a way that’s paying for a human being, but there is a process for that. For some reason a man walking through town who offers a father money to buy his son is disturbing.

You bring up some great points. The one about the less-valuable daughter dropping out of school to take care of the son is distasteful as well.

Kent says:

That article begs the question. How do the other villagers react to a 5 year old boy apearing in one of the families?

Surely they must be aware of the possibility that the new addition to the village was probably purchased, or trafficted in some way. Do they wonder, do they ask where he came from? Are they concerned that another family might have been robbed of a child? Or is are all these questions a western way of looking at the situation?

Kelsey says:

Great questions Kent.

“Hey neighbor, meet my new son. He’s 8. I just got him. Nice, huh?”

How does the neighbor react?

Jenn says:

Here’s a part that freaked me out: “Mr. Peng, who started an ad hoc group for parents of stolen children, said some of the girls were sold to orphanages. They are the lucky ones who often end up in the United States or Europe after adoptive parents pay fees to orphanages that average $5,000.” So even if you go through the legal process of adopting from China, could you end up with a child who had been kidnapped from his/her parents???

Melissa says:

Jenn–I agree. But I also get stuck on the phrase “they are the lucky ones.” I suppose lucky is relative…despite what the US might offer isn’t it luckier to not get stolen in the first place?

Kent says:

Jenn, I was thinking the same thing. Who’s to say that all documents supplied to western families who legally adopt chinese children are 100% legit?

But one could also argue… While there’s no way to know where all of these children really came from, the fact remains that they need a home and a loving family. Even if as a baby they were stolen away.

I suppose what it boils down to is, much more needs to be done to help families find their stolen children.

Let your voice be heard!