Guo Gangtang, a 51-year-old dad from China, finally reunited with his son, Xinzhen, 24 years after the boy was abducted. The father searched relentlessly for his son for over two decades, at first using missing-person flyers and word-of-mouth to locate his missing boy.
The search, which began in 1997, when Guo Gangtang’s son was just 2 years old, took over 24 years to complete. The boy was kidnapped while playing outside in Gangtang’s home village, in the Eastern province of Shandong. The desperate father did not give up his search, though, even when everything seemed to be lost.
Having traveled across China and more than 300,000 miles on his motorcycle, Guo Gangtang proved what a dedicated father looks like. He broke bones on his journey, went through nearly a dozen different motorbikes, and slept under bridges after he spent the rest of his life savings on the search. He hoped, through his adventure, that he would find his missing son and bring him home.
After 24 years of searching, waiting for the moment the two would be reunited, Gangtang’s hopes were realized, when he reunited with his son, Xinzhen. On Sunday, July 11, Guo Gantang finally met his 26-year-old son after police tracked down Xinzhen Gantang and confirmed his identity through DNA. Their emotional reunion was documented in extraordinary footage, which captured the pair’s loving embrace as they met for the first time.
In the clip, Guo Gangtang and his wife wipe away tears as they snuggle into their now-adult son. “My baby,” Xinzhen’s mother can be heard screaming. “You came back!”
Gangtang spoke to reporters after the heartwarming moment captured in Liaocheng, Shandong, telling them that “now that the child has been found, everything can only be happy from now on.” He also explained in a social media post that “today is very important for me. My kid has been found. The future is full of happiness. God treats us kindly.”
Xinzhen Gantang, who is now a teacher, was kidnapped on September 21, 1997, by a woman with the surname, Tang, while playing outside his home when he was just over 2 years old. Authorities identified the woman during their investigation and determined she was the girlfriend of a man with the surname Hu. She then took the boy to Henan province, where she and Hu sold him.
After police identified the couple last month, authorities brought the 45-year-old Tang into custody. Hu, 56, was already in a Shanxi jail when police identified his connection to the kidnapping. The host family, who purchased Xinzhen Gantang, was not identified by authorities but was reported to be “financially decent.”
According to officials, the family gave the abducted boy “a university education,” though it isn’t clear whether they were aware of their wrongdoing. Police have not revealed whether they would be charged.
Guo Gangtang’s relentless spirit not only earned him his son back but inspired the 2015 film, Lost and Love, which starred Andy Lau, a famous Hong Kong actor. When the film was released, Gangtang told reporters that he only felt he was a father while “on the road,” during his 300,000-mile journey to locate his son. “I have no reason to stop searching,” Gangtang said at the time. “And it’s impossible for me to stop.”
Andy Lau was one of the voices that spoke out in support of Gangtang’s journey and perseverance, saying after the emotional reunion that he felt “happy and thrilled” that the family found their son. “I’d like to say to Brother Guo that I admire your persistence. I also want to salute the police authority for their years of efforts,” Lau said, commending authorities for their work bringing Xinzhen Gangtang home.
Child abduction is an epidemic in China. An estimated 20,000 children are abducted each year, with many of them being sold into adoption, both in China and around the globe. The kidnapping and trafficking of babies have been an issue for China for a while.
Though police have more advanced blood tests and can identify lost children even decades after they are abducted, it is hard to convince children and adults to take the DNA tests. Chinese people have to come forward to take the test, and many abducted children aren’t aware they have been abducted, and thus won’t go for testing.