SHENZHEN, CHINA - The thieves often strike at dusk, when children are playing outside and their parents are distracted by exhaustion.
Deng Huidong lost her 9-month-old son in the blink of an eye as a man yanked him from the grip of his 7-year-old sister near the doorway of their home. The car did not even stop as a pair of arms reached out the window and grabbed the boy.
Sun Zuo, a gregarious 3 1/2-year-old, was lured off by someone with a slice of mango and a toy car, an abduction that was captured by police surveillance cameras.
Peng Gaofeng was busy with customers when a man snatched his 4-year-old son from the plaza in front of his shop as throngs of factory workers enjoyed a spring evening. “I turned away for a minute, and when I called out for him he was gone,” Mr. Peng said.
These and thousands of other children stolen from the teeming industrial hubs of China’s Pearl River Delta have never been recovered by their parents or by the police. But anecdotal evidence suggests the children do not travel far. Although some are sold to buyers in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, most of the boys are purchased domestically by families desperate for a male heir, parents of abducted children and some law enforcement officials who have investigated the matter say.The demand is especially strong in rural areas of south China, where a tradition of favoring boys over girls and the country’s strict family planning policies have turned the sale of stolen children into a thriving business...
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