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New technologies give hope to missing children's families

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

05-22-2017 17:42 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

Nothing can be more heartbreaking for a family than when their child goes missing. At first, they could be in denial assuming the child is temporarily lost and may soon find them. But as the minutes go by and an hour or two later, the parents begin to panic.

They realize it's no longer a joke as they may have thought the child was just hiding to be naughty. And the longer it takes to recover the child, the more unlikely the kid can return safely home.

Here's where every moment counts, a time for action or risk losing the child, perhaps for the rest of their lives. They should alert the people nearby them, but if there had been an abduction by a total stranger then more must be done.

'Amber Alert' for China

In the United States, law enforcement authorities work with the public to issue announcements when a child goes missing, known as 'Amber Alerts.'

When local police determine a child is missing, they alert other police officers and the local media by announcing the identity of the missing child and encourage people to be on the look-out.

China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has launched similar alerts, but with a hi-tech upgrade. The ‘Emergency Response System,’ commonly called, "Reunion," uses a mobile APP for messaging the public.

The 'Reunion' APP ensures more efficient sharing of information and better collaboration between law enforcement officials. Citizens, who sign on to the APP, receive push notifications that provide the identification and description of a missing child.

China launched the 'Reunion' system last year in May and it's been successful in locating over 1,274 missing children.

AI facial recognition

More than 20,000 children are reported abducted in China each year. Some experts claim the real figures could be much higher.

The Chinese hi-tech firm, Baidu, has introduced new Artificial Intelligence (AI) facial recognition technology that has played a pivotal role to help missing children reunite with their families.

Starting last March, Baidu upgraded a Chinese Website, Baby Come Home, which aims to upload a nationwide database of photos of missing children.

The missing children submit their photos, which get scanned and analyzed to compare with photos sent by the parents of missing children. The facial recognition system can narrow down the search to 30 families and then through further communication, families can be reunited.

Fu Gu, 33, from Chongqing is one success story. He was abducted at 6-year-old and he uploaded his photo on the Website. On April 1, he met his biological parents after DNA testing confirmed the match.

Support system for families

The sad truth about China is that abductions have become a widespread social problem.

Reportedly, motorcycle gangs are known to roll into public areas where children are playing. They sweep in, grab them and roll out within minutes. They transport them into cars, where the children get delivered to a different Chinese city to be sold.

Some kidnapping gangs, who were arrested, have informed officials the usual rate for selling a child to another family is valued at about $US50,000 (300-350,000RMB).

Child traffickers prefer to steal boys, since Chinese culture favors families raising males over females. Hence, Chinese cops need more help to assist families in the search of abducted children.

The Chinese media, such as Tencent, and domestic companies, including Alibaba, have joined in to offer new technologies that upgrade the "Reunion" alert system.

Renewing hope with better tech.

It's a nightmare for any parent to worry about a missing child. They wake up each morning wondering if their child is dead or alive. They feel no sense of finality until they can restore the body.

Although China's 'Reunion' system has successfully identified 1,274 missing children in the past 12 months, it was revealed that 75 of the children died by drowning and 29 were murdered.

The parents of 104 children had to bury them. The news was heartbreaking, but at least families know the truth and could stop searching in vain.

China's new technology upgrades are giving real answers to the families of missing children. And quite often, those answers are happy endings when missing children are alive and can go back home.


(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)


Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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