A liquor company executive has arranged for information on 1,000 missing children to be printed on the containers of US$3 drinks that will be popular during the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations. Sales profits will be donated to support grief-stricken parents.
Workers are busy packing more than 100,000 containers of the specially-marked products. The project is similar to a 1980s-era campaign in the United States, when photos of missing children were printed on the sides of milk cartons.
Xiao Dufeng of the Chongqing Lao Yuan Zi liquor company says he decided to act after seeing a friend's family member fall victim.
He says, "I was affected by a man who lost his child to a kidnapping. He was living so happily before, but after his child went missing, he lost his job because he spent all his time looking for him and his wife fell ill from all the worry. I felt that I had to do something for them.
My company sells products across more than 20 provinces. I hope we can help parents find their missing children by printing this information on our boxes. We have to think about how to improve society, rather than just focusing on profits."
Police do make occasional breakthroughs. Seven people were arrested last month after a newborn baby was discovered in a car with the umbilical cord still attached. They've been charged with trading four infants for US$12,000.
Child trafficking is a particular concern in rural areas.
Ye Weiwei who works at the China Charities Aid Foundation for Children says children are often forced into farm labor and married off underage. "Child abduction is a profitable crime. The traffickers can sell a child for a few thousand dollars...about the same as annual income."
Shen Junliang has been looking for his son for 14 years. Cong was just one year old when he was kidnapped by next door neighbors in Guangzhou city. Police discovered that Cong was sold to a broker for US$2,000. It broke his father's heart.
Shen told me, "Seeing children begging on the streets and watching news about other kidnappings is tough. It makes me worry about my son. I can't stand it."
Shen distributes flyers about his son in the desperate hope that one day, they'll be reunited. He is offering a US$15,000 reward. His relentless search has left him unemployed and heavily in debt.
Shen says, "I at least want to know that my son is healthy and in a good environment. I'll support him no matter what. I will definitely find him. I will keep looking for him no matter how much debt I take on."
Parents like Shen look for any kind of publicity they can get, hopeful that it will lead to their missing children. The fight against human trafficking relies on a community-wide approach, including private enterprises, to bring cases to attention.
According to a report by China National Radio, 200,000 children go missing every year. Police have expressed doubt about that number, saying it's too high. But there are no official statistics.
Most of the missing kids will never see their parents again. The victims are often sold to families in farming villages who struggle with China's inadequate social security system. These people are worried that they won't have the support they need in old age.
There are deep-rooted customs that encourage this type of crime, and that's reflected in penalties that have been criticized for being too lenient.
Police are cracking down on criminal groups behind child trafficking. But they need public support. One community-minded company is doing what it can to help, and hopefully there will be more, as well as an increased awareness of victims' suffering.