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A two-year-old boy was chained to a lamppost outside a shopping center in Beijing, China, because his parents feared he could be abducted, it emerged Thursday.

Passers-by saw the child tied to a post while his father, an unlicensed motorbike driver, tried to find passengers. The boy’s mother was thought to be mentally ill.

The child’s father, Chen Chuanliu, 42, said he was forced to lock his son up to protect him from being stolen and because he could not afford childcare.

Chen claimed his four-year-old daughter had been abducted last month, and this extreme measure was the only way to keep his son safe .

Nobody was available to help to look after his son, Chen said.

“My wife is ill and I can’t stop work … It seems harsh but it is better than losing him,” he added, according to Thursday’s Sun newspaper.

The father stopped the practice Tuesday after he was approached by the local government, reported China’s The People’s Daily.