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Custody Battles in China Lead to Child Abductions

Custody battles sometimes can be bitter affairs between the parents.  In China, it is no different.  Unlike many court orders for child custody in North Carolina, courts in China rarely grant joint physical custody of children to divorcing parties, causing disputes over minor children to be extremely hostile.  The best interest of the child is one of the guiding principles for a judge in North Carolina when deciding how to structure a custodial schedule.  However, in China, judges are of the mindset that keeping children in their existing environment is what is best for their wellbeing.

Around January 2017 was the last time Wang Jianna saw her daughter.  At the time, the girl was only six months old.  Wang was at home with her daughter when she was pinned to the ground and her daughter pried from her arms.  Wang’s ex-husband and the baby’s father, Liu Zhongmin, orchestrated the abduction.  The police declined to get involved in the matter, claiming it was impossible for a parent to abduct his own child.  Later, a Chinese court granted Wang’s ex-husband sole custody of the child, citing that it was best to keep the child in “familiar surroundings.”  Nine months after Wang’s daughter was abducted from her very arms, the police finally acknowledged in a report that Liu had inflicted injury upon Wang and her mother during a “physical dispute over a child.”  As a result, Liu served ten days in administrative detention and paid a fine of about $75 for causing physical harm.  Still, officers did not blame Liu for taking the child.

Last June, the Chinese government sought to address the widespread problem of child abductions throughout China by outlawing abductions for custody purposes.  The act of abducting a child by a parent to ensure a court will grant him/her sole custody has grown more prevalent in China as a result of rising divorce rates.  While many divorcing couples in China settle their affairs privately, those who do end up in court face an all-or-nothing dilemma.

Reports show an estimated 80,000 children in China were abducted and hidden for custody purposes in 2019, although some believe that the figure is much higher.  Often, the fathers orchestrate the abduction, especially if they have a son, given the traditional emphasis in China on sons to carry on the family name.  Only recently, as women and mothers in China have gained more financial stability and independence, have they begun to fight for custody of their children when divorcing.  However, law enforcement’s willingness to turn a blind eye to the abductions has made the process more difficult, and a woman’s battle in court is often lost.