My hope is that if China's Stolen Children can help even one child, one family somewhere then it's been worth it.
The film exposes a disturbing problem that many people outside of China are completely unaware of. How did you learn about it?
In working with producers Brian Woods and Kate Blewett on Return to The Dying Rooms - which was an update to an expose on Chinese orphanages where little girls were being left to die - we came across stories about children who were abducted due to the One Child policy in China. And because Brian and Kate were banned from China ten years ago, it felt unsafe for them to return. I've been working alongside them for several years, so this became an opportunity for me to direct the film, which is my first as a director.
We reckoned the best way in was to put together a team of people who were not connected in any way to the television industry. We needed to make sure that we knew exactly who was on board, because obviously there's been many reports out of China of people who'd spoken to foreigners that had been arrested, imprisoned, or disappeared. So we knew we had to approach this very, very cautiously. It was very important that if we were going to do this, if people were going to bare their souls and get involved with foreign media, that this was something they really, really wanted to do.
There's been many reports people who'd spoken to foreigners that had been arrested, imprisoned, or disappeared. So we knew we had to approach this very, very cautiously.
To most people, the idea of selling your child is unthinkable. How is it that the trafficker in the film can go about his business without feeling any remorse?
Many people have asked me, "Why would the trafficker talk to you?" And it's very simple. He feels he's doing nothing wrong. In his eyes, there is a young couple who've had a child, who face a fine if they keep that child. They can't afford that. There's another couple in another province who can't have a child, and who have family pressures to have a child. And so therefore, he facilitates. He puts one desperate couple in touch with another desperate couple. So, in his eyes, there's nothing wrong with that. In his eyes, he's just an adoption agency.
My experience in China is that there is a culture there that encourages people to do well in life. And because of the pressures with wanting to grow so quickly, you see a breakdown in Chinese society where people are desperate to get this wealth. And they'll go about it any way they can. So, once you've sold your pig, once you've sold your chicken, what else have you got left? Well, why not your kid? He's worth quite a lot. That means you can move forward in life. And, in fact, the trafficker in the film actually has sold his son. He sold his youngest son because he knew if he sold his oldest son he would know how to get back home. When I heard that I thought, "Wow, that's something else. That's truly something else."
Many people have asked me, 'Why would the trafficker talk to you?' And it's very simple. He feels he's doing nothing wrong.
How does all this go on essentially without the world's knowledge?
Something that the Chinese government has been very, very good at is the suppression of information. They've been doing it for a very long time. In the eyes of the central government, kids aren't trafficked on a massive scale. This doesn't happen. So therefore, why do we need special police units to search for these children?
And you hear stories of people just disappearing. The police come around one night and that's it, you don't hear from them again. People won't even speak out against the state. It's only when people take a huge risk and actually make a stand that anything will ever happen. And my hope is that if China's Stolen Children can help even one child, one family somewhere then it's been worth it.
2008 Documentary Films Series