Guo Gangtang, a father of two boys in China, believes his oldest son was stolen by a child trafficker 12 years ago, at the age of 2, and he hasn’t stopped looking for his child since. Funded by profits from his store, where he sells gourds, Guo rides a motorcycle across China, searching. He’s spent about $44,000, worn out eight motorcycles, and has had several run-ins with human trafficking rings along the way, even managing to help seven other trafficked children reconnect with their families. But, his own son remains missing.
This story sort of blows my mind. Thinking about the information the father has to go on –- his son’s name, some pictures, and the scant details from his son’s kidnapping? It’s not much. Guo’s son went missing one day while he was at work, and fellow villagers witnessed the boy’s alleged abduction by a 20-something female who was probably a baby trafficker. The police and hundreds of people helped in the initial search, but to no avail.
By now, the child would be 14, looking little like his toddler self, and almost certainly with a new name. And, is he even in China? If, in fact, he was a he was a victim of the baby-trafficking industry, he could have been adopted by a couple in China, or the United States -– or really, anywhere in the world. That’s one tiny needle in a very giant haystack.
But, if it were your son or daughter that had been taken, could you ever stop looking?
Years of fruitless searching led Guo to give up for a while, and he had his second son in 2000. Rather than filling the void of his missing son, however, he felt a renewed need to search for his eldest again. Each trip, he takes with him two bags filled with gourds that are handcrafted with information about his son. He sneaks his way into human trafficking rings in order to gain more information and if caught, he pays for it.
Guo’s story shows his bravery and determination, yes, and brings needed awareness to the problem of the Chinese baby trafficking industry. More than anything, though, it illustrates the long-lasting, devastating effects of child trafficking on both victims and their families. Perhaps Guo’s son is safe somewhere, loved by an adoptive family, but Guo’s own life and family have been torn in a way that can never fully heal.