Chinese father reunited with kidnapped son after 24-year search

Mr Guo Xinzhen (left) during his reunion with his parents in Liaocheng city, China, on July 11, 2021.
Mr Guo Xinzhen (left) during his reunion with his parents in Liaocheng city, China, on July 11, 2021.PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Mr Guo Xinzhen (left) during his reunion with his parents in Liaocheng city, China, on July 11, 2021.
Mr Guo Xinzhen (left) during his reunion with his parents in Liaocheng city, China, on July 11, 2021.PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese man has been reunited with his kidnapped son after a 24-year search that saw him travel half a million kilometres across China on a motorcycle, chasing tip-offs on the boy's whereabouts.

Mr Guo Gangtang's son was just two years and five months old when he was abducted from in front of the family home in eastern Shandong province, where he was playing unattended.

Traffickers snatched the boy and sold him to a family in central China, the Ministry of Public Security said on Tuesday (July 13).

Kidnapping and child trafficking became widespread in China from the 1980s, when the draconian one-child rule was enforced, and a cultural obsession with sons fuelled demand for abducted boys.

After years of searching, police told Mr Guo on Sunday that a DNA test had confirmed that a 26-year-old teacher living in central Henan province was really his long-lost son.

Mr Guo is seen sobbing into his palms while his wife hugs their son Guo Xinzhen - also known as Guo Zhen in some reports - during a reunion event in a photo released Tuesday by the public security ministry.

"Now that the child has been found, everything can only be happy from now on," Mr Guo said through tears in a video released by the state-run China News Service.

After his son was abducted in 1997, then 27-year-old Guo quit his job and criss-crossed the country on a motorbike with large flags bearing his son's photo tied to the back.

His 500,000km crusade - that included battling highway robbers, sleeping under bridges and even begging when his money ran out - inspired the 2015 Chinese blockbuster "Lost and Love", with Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau portraying Mr Guo.

Upon hearing the news, Lau on Tuesday said in a video: "I feel extremely happy and inspired today because Brother Guo's son has finally reunited with his parents after 24 years with the effort of the Chinese authorities.

"I want to tell Brother Guo that I admire his perseverance, and to also thank the authorities for their years of hard work. I hope everyone can join me to support anti-human trafficking, and that more distraught families can be reunited soon."

Over the years, Mr Guo has helped seven other families find their lost children and raised awareness about child trafficking - still a taboo topic in China.

Mr Guo told reporters that he had earlier visited the city where his son grew up, to help another father find his kidnapped boy.

"Only by hitting the road looking for my son, do I feel I am a father," he once told Chinese media.


Mr Guo Xinzhen (left) during his reunion with his parents in Liaocheng city, China, on July 11, 2021. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Two suspects linked to the case have been arrested, state-run Global Times reported.

Investigations had led police to track down the suspects, a man surnamed Hu and a woman surnamed Tang, in northern China's Shanxi province.

Police did not offer details about the family that had purchased Mr Guo's son.

News of the high-profile reunion triggered an outpouring of emotion on social media with over nine million views.


Mr Guo Gangtang's son was just two years and five months old when he was abducted from in front of the family home. PHOTO: WEIBO

"Parents never give up on their children! Guo's struggle shows the depth of a father's love," one user wrote on Weibo.

Since launching a DNA database of missing families in 2016, police say they have helped more than 2,600 individuals kidnapped as children - some over 60 years ago - find their biological parents.