A Chinese man was 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 possible 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.
Kidnapping and child trafficking became widespread in China in 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 Guo on Sunday that a DNA test confirmed a 26-year-old teacher living in central Henan province was his long-lost son.
Guo is seen sobbing into his palms while his wife hugs their son, Guo Zhen, during a reunion event in a photo released on Tuesday by the public security ministry.
“Now that the child has been found, everything can only be happy from now on,” 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 crisscrossed the country on a motorbike with large flags bearing his son’s photo tied to the back.
His 500,000-km (310,000-mile) crusade – that included battling highway robbers, sleeping under bridges, and even begging when his money ran out – inspired the 2014 Chinese blockbuster, Lost and Love.
Across the years, Guo has helped seven other families find their lost children and raised awareness about child trafficking – still a taboo topic in China.
Guo told reporters he earlier visited the city where his son grew up to help another father find his kidnapped boy.
Two suspects linked to the case have been arrested, state-run Global Times reported. Police did not offer details about the family that bought Guo’s son.
News of the high-profile reunion triggered an outpouring of emotion on social media with more than nine million views.
“Parents never give up on their children! Guo’s struggle shows the depth of a father’s love,” one user wrote on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.
Since launching a DNA database of missing family members in 2016, police said they have helped more than 2,600 individuals kidnapped as children – some more than 60 years ago – to find their biological parents.