China Blog Helps To Trace Kidnapped Children

There’s been recent news of how a microblog set up in China has helped to reunite parents with their long-lost abducted children. Set up on China’s Sina.com by a Chinese professor,Yu Jianrong,  known for “championing the rights of China’s huge underclass”, the microblog gets people to take photos of child beggars and orphans and upload them to the site. One could easily send photos to the campaign’s email address: jiejiuqier@sina.com or use the mobile app for it.

It was just one such photo that led to the happy reunion of a father and his six-year-old boy who had been kindnapped three years earlier. Six other children have apparently been able to have happy reunions with their families, through the help of the microblog.

These have captured the attention of the Chinese government and have sparked renewed efforts by the state police to crack down on such abductions. The sad plight of kidnapped children who are often  forced into a life of slavery and hardship have been documented in various websites and blogs. One example is a project on Kickstarter that features documentary on the issue.

Unfortunately, just as the microblog has been hailed as a success in helping to rescue some of the children from their sad plight, there are others who now say that the online campaign is flawed and has put the children’s lives in greater danger. Because of the sudden interest in taking photos of the child beggars and posting them online, some say that the kidnappers will now resort to more serious ways such as disfiguring the children to prevent them from being recognised by their families.

Thankfully, efforts to rescue kidnapped children will be  more sustained. There will be a special fund set up for long-term help for a nationwide crackdown on child begging. Yang Peng, secretary-general of the One Foundation, announced on his sina.com.cn micro blog on Saturday that a dedicated fund will be established and affiliated to the charitable organisation.

Let’s hope that with sustained and concerted efforts by all, there could be a stop to this ruthless problem and the children can be protected.

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Internet Addiction classified as a clinical disorder

Do you constantly yearn to go online?

Do you feel agitated and distressed when you don’t go online?

Do you experience difficulty in concentrating or getting to sleep? 

If you display these symptoms amongst others, and you are online more than six hours a day, then according to a new manual on Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), you would be diagnosed as a ‘Net addict’.

The IAD which could soon be adopted by China could be seen as a form of help for China’s Net addicts as net addiction becomes diagnosed as a real problem. China is probably the first country to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder. According to state media, the authorities are concerned about the increased “compulsive Web use by millions of Chinese”. Dr Tao Ran, who has researched pathological addictions in China, drafted the diagnostic manual with other psychologists in the Military General Hospital of Beijing. They came up with the manual after studying ‘1300 problematic computer users’.

According to another psychologist, Dr Kong Derong, “Web games are the biggest culprit for Internet-related crimes in China, especially World of Warcraft, which has made many young minds unable to tell the real from virtual world”. Hm…one wonders if WOW creators have something to say on that…

Recognising Internet addiction as a disorder just like alcohol or drug addiction could pave the way for more treatment procedures. In fact, China has already started some aggressive measures. It has a started a military-style boot camp, complete with electric-shock therapy  to ‘wean’ younger addicts off their addiction, and it’s also started shutting down some Internet cafes and suspending their licenses as it was concerned that these were facilitating the addiction process. 

It’s still not sure how successful these measures are. However, recent research indicates that “42 per cent of Chinese youngsters polled felt ‘addicted’ to the Web, as compared to 18% in the United States”. Many say that acknowledging your addition is the first step in the treatment process, so it looks like things are looking up for China’s net addicts. 

However, some also this move in a more sinister light, and feel that China’s move to cut down the ‘negative’ influence of the Net, which includes people thinking and acting for themselves, is yet another extension of exercising control.

Also, some wonder, if the manual is adopted by other countries such as Singapore, what the rate of ‘net addiction’ would we get here? Electric-shock therapy, anyone?

Notwithstanding the quibbles over the yardsticks and motivations, Internet addiction is a serious problem, and does warrant serious attention. Perhaps, China’s step here is a way of prodding others to take the problem more seriously and to take some definitive measures to resolve it.

Thriving Blogosphere in China

The blogosphere is thriving! This is especially so with the number of China’s Internet users hitting new highs. Even in the rurul areas of China,  the numbers surged 127.7% in 2007.

In fact, China has become the fastest-growing Internet population with 221 million online users. This makes it a tie with the number of users in the US. The number has exploded despite the Chinese government’s efforts to curb access to materials they deem as offensive or pornographic. Remember the cute policeman and policewoman policing the Internet and screens of the Chinese online users? Perhaps, it is because of the imposed curbs and censorship that has caused the surge in online use.

This growing number of Internet users is seen as a cause of concern for Chinese officials who feel that users would turn to the Internet for their subversive activities and discussions.

Or perhaps they need not worry so much as many Chinese have turned to the Internet to rally support amongst the Chinese against the pro-Tibet acitivists during the Olympic Torch Relay through the various countries.

Perhaps, the Chinese government would like to take a leaf from the Malaysian government in its about turn in moving from ignoring and criticising the Internet to embracing it. It’s now calling all its members to write blogs and use new media to connect with the electorate and general public. It’s learnt its mistake of not using new media, thus leaving a void for other online discussions to take place without it.

In Singapore, blogs, websites and other new media abound to supplement and complement the news in mainstream media and serve as alternative forms of engagement

I do believe that using new media would in a way help to engage with younger voters and members of the public, but new media in itself would not do much – you would still need good, quality content, and online conversations that would be open to all, and of course, an open mind.