Chinese father reunited with kidnapped son after 24-year search

BEIJING • A Chinese man has been reunited with his kidnapped son after a 24-year search that saw him ride more than 500,000km across China on a motorbike chasing tip-offs on the boy's whereabouts.

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

Traffickers snatched the boy and sold him to a family in central China, the Ministry of Public Security said yesterday.

Kidnapping and child trafficking became widespread in China from the 1980s, when the 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 a 26-year-old teacher living in central province Henan 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 their reunion in a photo released by the Public Security Ministry.

"Now the child has been found, everything can only be happy from now on," Mr Guo, 51, said through tears in a video released by the state-run China News Service.

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

His crusade - which included battling highway robbers, sleeping under bridges and even begging when his money ran out - inspired a 2015 Chinese movie, Lost And Love, with Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau playing Mr Guo.

Hearing the news, Lau expressed his congratulations, saying in a video he was "extremely happy and inspired" by Mr Guo's persistence.

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.

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

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2021, with the headline Chinese father reunited with kidnapped son after 24-year search. Subscribe