The Current

Father of abducted son fights child trafficking in China

In 2007, Haiyang Sun's son vanished and his quest to find him has led him through China's well-known, but little acknowledged child abduction trade. As the Chinese government considers harsher penalties, we examine a practice that has seen thousands of children swept up in economic schemes.
Haiyang Sun four-year-old son Zhuo Sun was stolen off the street in 2007. He is the founder of a website ( dedicated to finding his son and other kidnapped children. (Haiyang Sun)

In January of this year, twenty-eight-year-old Sun Bin, embraced his parents for the first time in 24 years. 

Child traffickers had snatched him from the family vegetable stall, when he was just four. Their reunion was big news in China – Not because child trafficking is unusual... but because happy endings are. 

The Chinese state media has described child trafficking as a "rampant" problem.  These children are sometimes forced into lives of street crime, or begging. But more often – like Sun Bin – they are sold to other families. A childless couple, 1500 kilometres away, had paid traffickers the equivalent of approximately $500 for Sun Bin.

Currently, the Chinese government is considering harsher penalties for those who sell and buy children. But some citizens have been taking matters into their own hands.

Haiyang Sun's four-year-old son was stolen off the street outside his restaurant eight years ago. He is the founder of a website dedicated to finding his son and other kidnapped children. We reached Haiyang Sun earlier in Shenzen, China.

Listen to Anna Maria's conversation with Haiyang Sun, speaking in Mandarin (without translation)

Research into China's child trafficking problems points to the long-time One Child policy as one of the root causes of the problem... together with economic reforms from the 1970s that left many poor, and in search of an easy cash fix.

But there are no official figures on how many children are taken from their families each year. Some experts say it could be as about 20,000 or even as high as 200,000. 

Anqi Shen has been studying China's internal child trafficking problem for years. She is an assistant professor in Law at Teeside University in England.

This segment was produced by The Current's Daisy Xiong and Sarah Grant.