A Chinese internet user who is better known for making prank videos recently decided to call attention to a serious Chinese social problem—the kidnapping of children in the hundreds of thousands each year.
Dapengprank, a 20-year-old Chinese with over 5,000 followers on Youku, China’s Youtube equivalent, teamed up with a young boy to see how people in public places would react to a child kidnapping taking place right in front of them. The three-and-a-half minute long video was released on March 27 with English and Chinese subtitles.
“There are about 200,000 missing children in China each year. Only one percent of missing children can be found,” reads the video’s opening message, a tidbit of information that appears to be taken from an evening news segment by state broadcaster China National Radio.
Clad in a hooded sweater and jeans, Dapengprank would grab his young friend as he strolled past passers-by, stuff a white rag into the boy’s face to simulate chloroform use, and dash off to the sound of the boy’s muffled moans. This experiment was repeated on busy streets, a public park, and both inside and outside a shopping mall.
The passers-by reaction to the “kidnapping” ranged from clear shock (a trio of women on a sidewalk) to stoic (a lady sitting on a park bench). None lifted a finger to stop or even pursue the boy’s kidnapper.
“Why do you look,” a man muttered to his female companion after they witnessed Dapengprank chase his young accomplice out of a shopping mall before seizing him barely inches away from them. The bespectacled woman, however, kept on turning her head to the scene of the “crime” whilst looking clearly disturbed. The man continued to chomp on his fish balls on a stick, looked dead ahead, and muttered: “Don’t look.”
For the last staged kidnapping, Dapengprank removed his hood and used a bandana to cover the lower half of his face, possibly to make himself more conspicuous. The two women and young boy who saw the Chinese internet personality commit the crime threw some curious looks, but quickly moved on.
“In the test, people were just looking at me and nobody tried to stop me,” the video read near the end. “Whatever reason makes Chinese so unconcerned, we need to think about it seriously.”
Users of the very popular Chinese microblog Sina Weibo were up in arms at the reaction of the passers-by featured in the video. “What Should I Call Myself” from Anhui wrote: “Are they zombies? How can they be so cold-blooded and indifferent. All they had to do is run up and ask what’s going on. I’m incensed.”
“Black White Elder” from Zhejiang wrote: “It is well known that people in China have lost their humanity. Stop having these kind of self-defeating experiments … This is surely the result of a society without a proper rule of law, and people have warped values because they have no spiritual faith.”
Child kidnapping and trafficking is a serious problem in China, but it is one that the Chinese communist regime doesn’t properly document. Apart from the China National Radio 2013 broadcast, there are hardly any official figures for the number of missing children in China. The U.S. State Department estimates that there are about 20,000 children kidnapped in China each year, though the real number is suspected of being far greater.
In one notable case reported in June 2012, a gang of 36 people kidnapped 223 infants in the southern province of Yunnan and sold them to people in Henan Province in central China between the end of 2009 to August 2010, according to People’s Net, the online version of the state-run People’s Daily. Jiang Kaizhi, the gang leader, was convicted and sentenced to death.
Child abduction is one of the darker legacies of the Chinese regime’s recently discontinued one-child policy. Charles Custer, an editor at Tech in Asia who made a documentary on formerly kidnapped children in China searching for their original parents, wrote in an article in Foreign Policy that “most instances of kidnapping are perpetrated by gangs that are large, national, and highly organized,” and some of the kidnapped children end up being “sold into slave labor, prostitution, or a life on the streets” in begging cartels.
The child trafficking gangs are also looking to satiate the demand for children: Inside China there are married couples who can’t conceive, those who want a male child, or those who want to secure a future wife for their son; and foreign couples are too looking to adopt Chinese babies.
The going price on the black market for a girl was about 60,000 yuan (about $9,250) and 80,000 yuan (about $12,350) for a boy, according to a January 2015 report by Tencent, a popular news portal in China. And foreign parents who are looking to adopt Chinese toddlers through legitimate means need to pay up to $5,500 in “orphanages fees” to Chinese adoption agencies, who have been found in some cases to have bought children from traffickers.