News24

Hong Kong 'child abductions' spark fears

2012-03-13 16:26

Hong Kong - Police in Hong Kong were investigating reports of attempted kidnappings as rumours of child abductions swept the city on Tuesday.

Kidnappers from mainland China were said to have attempted to grab a young girl in the Kowloon district, while three boys from an elite primary school were reportedly approached by men as they walked to their bus.

A police spokesperson said the Kowloon incident last week was "a misunderstanding" that involved no crime and police had found no evidence so far of an attempted abduction at the primary school.

Fears over the incidents have spread through the city, and 9 000 Facebook users signed an online petition calling on the government to reveal how many children have been abducted.

Parents made claims of earlier, unreported incidents of alleged abductions, triggering rumours that gangs may be targeting children for trafficking in mainland China.

Antagonism towards mainlanders

"These stories are spreading because they reflect many Hong Kong people's anxiety about the relationship with the mainland," anthropologist Joseph Bosco of Chinese University wrote in a newspaper commentary.

"Rumours can be dangerous. Incidents of ethnic violence always begin with rumours that one group is about to attack the other; it happened in Sri Lanka and Rwanda".

Many local residents are particularly angry about the thousands of mainland Chinese women who cross the border to give birth each year, a practice that gives babies Hong Kong citizenship and access to its schooling and health services.

Antagonism towards mainlanders has grown, with accusations that they drive up prices and display uncouth behaviour.