Miraculously this week, Guo Gangtang's tireless search finally came to an end when he and his wife were reunited with their son who is now 26.
For nearly 24 years, a father in China has traveled more than 300,000 miles on his motorbike displaying photos of a 2-year-old boy in the hopes of finding his kidnapped son. But miraculously this week, Guo Gangtang's tireless search finally came to an end when he and his wife were reunited with their son who is now 26. According to China’s public security ministry, authorities were able to find the boy after his DNA matched his parent's. As the three of them hugged each other in tears, the bitter-sweet moment was captured by the Chinese state television during a news conference on Sunday in the family's hometown of Liaocheng situated in the northern Shandong Province.
Twenty four years ago, the two year old was taken from the doorway directly in front of his family’s home. The police say they finally found him with a DNA match + that two suspects (a man and a woman) have been arrested for allegedly abducting the child and selling him in 1997. pic.twitter.com/oNqSmSzwet— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) July 13, 2021
"My darling, my darling, my darling," Guo's wife, Zhang Wenge, was heard saying through tears as she tightly embraced her son after over two decades. "We found you, my son, my son," she said according to The New York Times. "He’s been delivered into your hands, so you need to love him well," said Guo in a shaky voice while trying to comfort his wife. The emotional reunion touched people across the country, where Guo has become somewhat of a folk hero.
The father's cross-country voyage also inspired the 2015 movie Lost and Love, which stared renowned Hong Kong actor Andy Lau. Immediately after the reunion, Chinese social media flooded with messages congratulating the family. Even the movie's director, Peng Sanyuan, shared a video acknowledging the heartwarming event on social media site Douyin. "Today, 'Lost and Love' finally has a real happy ending." she wrote.
Quote from Andy Lau who reportedly worked for free playing Guo Gangtang in the movie: “I feel extremely happy and inspired today because brother Guo’s son has been reunited with his parents after 24 years... I hope everyone can join me to support anti-human trafficking...” pic.twitter.com/U76wUgeyCz— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) July 13, 2021
The couple named their beloved son Guo Xinzhen when he was born but were left devastated when he disappeared on September 21, 1997. The boy was reportedly playing at the door of his house while his mother was busy cooking inside. When their boy disappeared without a trace, his concerned parents began searching the area along with their family, friends, and neighbors. Soon Guo would attach large banners featuring his son's photo on the back of his motorcycle and go far and wide to look for his son. "Son, where are you?" read the banner. "Dad is looking for you to come home."
Guo Gangtang’s relentless, decades-long search for his son on the back of a motorbike led to a film adaption of his story. He used the subsequent fame to help the parents of other missing children in #China but couldn’t find his own boy... until now. pic.twitter.com/JUXctxojKd— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) July 13, 2021
Over the years, Guo wore out at least 10 motorcycles as he traveled from Hainan in the south to Henan in the north looking for any information he could get. He was also met with many dangerous situations, like one rainy day when his bike toppled after a rock slipped off a truck bed and landed in front of him. Despite being faced with countless near-miss traffic incidents, the doting father always set out again. "If I’m at home, the human trafficker is not going to deliver him back to me," he said back in 2015.
Guo Gangtang’s son found after ministry of public security launched a nationwide campaign to solve cold cases https://t.co/H2pxuUPchq— Sunday Times (@SundayTimesZA) July 14, 2021
In China, child abduction has been a persistent problem, with the Ministry of Public Security saying that they located over 2600 missing children this year alone. Although there aren't any official statistics, many reports estimate that as many as 70,000 kids are abducted in China annually. Among several reasons, the kidnapping of a child has been partly linked to China's one-child policy. It was reported that couples resorted to purchasing young boys on the black market to ensure that would have a son during the height of the policy’s enforcement in the 1980s and 1990s. According to researchers at Xiamen University in Fujian Province further explained that the Chinese society has favored sons traditionally.
Guo Gangtang's son had been snatched aged two by human traffickers in front of their home in Shandong province in 1997.https://t.co/ylGTZWEx8w— Yahoo Singapore (@YahooSG) July 13, 2021
As the enforcement of the policy eased up during the early 2000s, abducts reportedly fell sharply. But the threats still remained. Although Gup could not find his son all these years, he did establish an organization in 2012 to help parents find their missing kids. As his story achieved traction and rose to prominence due to the 2015 movie, he began promoting anti-trafficking awareness on social media. Then in June this year, law enforcement officials in Shandong were notified about a potential match for Mr. Guo’s son in Henan Province. It was also reported that a woman surnamed "Tang" snatched the boy when he was young and handed him to a man surnamed Mr. Hu, who ultimately sold him.
Guo, whose son now works as a teacher, reportedly did not resent the couple who raised his child. He left it for his son to decide where he wished to stay moving forward. "If the child wants to be filial to his adopted parents, then you just need to openly and sincerely accept that," said the father. It was revealed that the young man had chosen to continue staying with the couple who raised him and treated him well, However, he did assure that he would visit his birth parents often. "Our child has been found. From now on, only happiness is left," said Guo who has finally found his son.