For nearly 24 years, the father crossed China on a scooter. With banners showing photos of a 2-year-old boy floating behind the bike, he traveled over 300,000 miles in pursuit of one goal: to find his kidnapped son.
This week, the search for Guo Gangtang is finally over. He and his wife tracked down their son, now 26, after police compared his DNA, according to China’s Ministry of Public Security.
In a scene captured on Chinese state television, the trio embraced crying during a press conference Sunday in Liaocheng, Guo’s hometown in northern Shandong Province.
“My dear, my dear, my dear,” Guo’s wife, Zhang Wenge, sobbed as she hugged the boy. “We found him, my son, my son.”
“He was delivered to your hands, so you must love him very much,” Guo said, trying to comfort her as his own voice quivered.
The seemingly happy ending captivated China, where Guo has become something of a folk hero. His odyssey across the country, in which he said he was knocked off his scooter at least once and slept outside when he couldn’t afford a hotel, inspired the movie “Lost and Love” [Perdido e amor, literalmente], with famous Hong Kong actor Andy Lau.
After the meeting, Chinese social media was filled with congratulatory messages. The hashtags about the Guo family have been viewed hundreds of millions of times.
“Today, ‘Lost and Love’ finally had a happy ending,” film director Peng Sanyuan said in a video on Douyin, a social networking app.
Child abduction is an age-old problem in China. There are no official statistics on the number of children abducted each year, but law enforcement said this month it has located 2,609 missing or abducted children so far this year. Several reports put the number of children kidnapped in China at 70,000 each year.
Historically, child abduction has been linked, at least in part, to the country’s one-child policy. During the height of the policy’s application, in the 1980s and 1990s, some couples resorted to buying boys on the illegal market to ensure they had a male child, academics say. from Xiamen University in Fujian Province. Chinese society traditionally favors male children.
Guo’s son, named Guo Xinzhen at birth, went missing on September 21, 1997. He played outside his home while his mother cooked inside, according to interviews his father has given over the years. .
He and his frantic wife, along with relatives, neighbors and friends, searched the area for the boy. But after several months, the effort faded. It was then that Guo tied up large banners printed with his son’s photo behind a scooter and went looking for him.
“Son, where are you? Read the banners, as well as a photo of the boy in an orange jacket. “Dad is looking for him to come home.
In 2012, Guo founded an organization to help other parents locate their missing children, and he said he helped dozens of families find their loved ones, even as his own search continued unsuccessfully. His story took on national significance with the 2015 film. Earlier this year, he also started promoting anti-trafficking awareness on the Douyin app, where he gained tens of thousands of followers before. even to find his son.
The final chapter in Guo’s story also seems to come out of a screenwriter’s imagination.
In June, Shandong police authorities received news of Guo’s potential son in Henan Province, according to the Ministry of Public Security. It was not immediately clear how the authorities identified him, but they said they used “the most recent research and comparison methods.” Subsequent blood tests confirmed that the 26-year-old, who according to local reports worked as a teacher, was Guo’s son.
Authorities later said that they had arrested a woman named Tang and a man named Hu. According to state media, Tang took the boy and handed him over to Hu, who then sold him. State broadcaster CCTV said the two confessed.
Before the reunion, astonished Guo and his wife bought more than 500 kilos of candy to distribute to neighbors as a celebration. Guo also cleaned his house, throwing away old items to celebrate a new start.
In an interview given before meeting Chen Luyu, presenter of the show, the parents were between jubilant and paralyzed. Sitting at her table, Zhang was moved several times, wondering if her son would blame her for not taking good care of him.
Guo said he had no grudges against the couple who raised their son. How the boy will treat the couple from now on is his decision, his father said. “If the child wants to continue living with his adoptive parents, he must accept it openly and sincerely,” he said.
According to reports in state media, Guo Filho said he would continue to live with the couple who raised him, who he said treated him very well. But he said he would visit his physiological parents frequently. Guo’s father told Chen that he would be happy with whatever the future holds. “Our son has been found,” he said. “From now on, all is happiness.”