Reunited: Chinese father hugs son snatched off the street and sold 24 years ago

A Chinese man has been reunited with his kidnapped son after a 24-year search that saw him travel 300,000 miles across China on a motorbike, chasing tip-offs on the boy’s whereabouts.

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.

Mr Guo and his son were finally reunited on Sunday after their DNA samples were matched through a police operation. 

The tearful pair were pictured clinging to each other at a ceremony organized by police from Shandong and Henan provinces. Mr Guo is seen sobbing into his palms while his wife hugs their son, Guo Xinzhen.

Guo Xinzhen is tearfully reunited with his family 24 years after he was abducted

Guo Xinzhen was apparently tracked down after he gave a blood sample in June as part of a police operation to find missing children. Authorities were able to match up his sample with his father’s.

Tong Bishan, the deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security’s criminal investigation bureau, said that a man and woman had been arrested in connection with Xinzhen’s abduction, and that the inquiry was ongoing. 

Mr Guo was 27 when his son was abducted. In the years that followed, he rode his motorbike across all of China’s 23 provinces, travelling more than 250,000 miles and reaching everywhere but the large sprawling regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. As he searched for his own son, he was also able to help several other families find their own missing children.   

Guo Gangtang with a picture of Xinzhen aged two

“As the father of an abducted child, Guo Gangtang has always maintained a rational, calm state of mind and indomitable will in the 24 years of searching for his son, despite the pain and suffering of losing his child,” Mr Tong told a press conference on Tuesday. 

“While riding a motorcycle, he travelled hundreds of thousands of kilometres in search of his child, while actively participating in anti-trafficking volunteer activities, and collecting timely feedback about missing and abducted children for the public security organs. 

"Through the clues he provided, the public security organs found more than 100 children who had been abducted for many years,” Mr Tong added. 

Guo Xinzhen was just two years old when he was snatched

Child abduction and trafficking is a chronic problem in China. Limits on the number of children couples can have, as well as a traditional preference for boys, have fuelled a thriving market in babies and children. 

In 2016, authorities launched a “Reunion” platform, where people can post photos and information about missing children, as well as the times and locations of their disappearances. 

As part of “Reunion”, authorities in June opened up more than 3,000 blood collection sites for people to give samples. Nearly 10,000 people voluntarily did, and as a result 306 families found their missing children, according to Tong. As part of this action, authorities discovered Guo’s son was in Henan province.

From January to April this year, authorities rescued more than 700 missing or abducted children, and arrested 86 people in connection with their disappearances, the Ministry of Public Security said earlier this year. 

Some of those children had been separated from their families for more than 30 years, it added.

Mr Guo’s story was the basis for the film “Lost and Love”, in which famous Hong Kong actor Andy Lau plays a father looking for his child.

A scene for the film Lost and Love in which Andy Lau plays a father looking for his child

“Only by searching can I feel like a true father,” Lau’s character says in the 2015 movie.

Wen Xu in Beijing contributed research 

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