Not long after, Cẩm was at her grandmother’s house with her mother, a few villages over from their own, when she logged on to Facebook to see if there was any news from Long.
Instead, she had a friend request and message from his younger brother Bình, asking if she was in Sapa.
̣ng woke to find over 100 missed calls on her mobile phone, all of them from her eldest daughter, Lý. Phụng pressed the blue Facebook button on her phone.
Traffickers moved at light speed, and 16-year-old Cẩm could very well be in the back of a car already, speeding towards rural China, her “buyer” waiting to introduce her to her new duties: labourer, domestic servant, wife, mother – possibly even sexual plaything for the other men in the family.
And then she jumped on to her motorbike and set out to find him, alone.
Children would look after one another while the adults tilled the rice paddies, or sold clothes at the local market. By the age of 12, she had taught herself enough English to befriend the tourists trekking past her family home towards the rice paddies and water buffalo.They would send a friend request, then ask where she went to school, or if she had any recommendations for a visitor to Sapa.She saw Facebook as a sort of online dating website; nearly everyone she chatted to was also H’mong, and it allowed everyone to come together, even if they were from harder-to-reach villages. “She called me from the border and said she’d been tricked! Phụng would have to act quickly if she wanted her daughter back. ” Lý’s voice cracked with panic over her little sister’s disappearance. They were living in Sapa, an impoverished rural district in Vietnam’s mountainous north-west, and many girls there had disappeared just like this: victims of bride trafficking, destined for China and a life of domestic servitude and sexual slavery.There was the face of the young man who had come on his motorcycle to pick up her daughter, only to sell her a few hours later across the border.