By Maureen Fan
Monday, March 10, 2008; Page A11
BEIJING — The man was a distant relative, so Yuan Cheng thought he could trust him. They both came from the same impoverished village of corn farmers, where most teenagers leave home for city jobs that pay in one month what a family earns off the land in a year.
Last March, Yuan said he asked the relative, a construction team leader in central Henan province, to find a job for his 15-year-old son, Yuan Xueyu. Two days later, the boy and 18 others set off on a 500-mile journey to the city of Zhengzhou.
Xueyu was assigned to a job installing windows between the 23rd and 24th floors of a skyscraper. But at the end of a shift three weeks later, the boy vanished, the relative later told Yuan in a phone call.
Yuan’s year-long search for his son has turned into an odyssey through the ill-defined world of human trafficking, an underground system that has helped fuel China’s