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For Dad Who Looked for Son 24 Years, a Happy Ending

Guo Gangtang, wife reunited with son Guo Xinzhen, abducted in 1997
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2021 8:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – Guo Gangtang wore out 10 motorcycles traversing 300,000 miles of road in China over 24 years. It was no thrill. Guo was in search of his son, abducted as a 2-year-old while playing at the door of his home in Liaocheng, northern Shandong Province, on Sept. 21, 1997. The child's face decorated banners attached to the bike, reading, "Son, where are you?," per the New York Times. "Dad is looking for you to come home." Guo's quest for answers was turned into a 2015 movie. And as of this week, it has a happy ending.

  • Guo, 51, and his wife, Zhang Wenge, were reunited with their son, born Guo Xinzhen, at a Sunday press conference in Liaocheng. Officials at the Ministry of Public Security said the man, a teacher, was found in Henan Province in June using "the newest comparison and search methods" before DNA confirmed him to be the missing person.
  • Authorities have since announced the arrest of a 45-year-old woman with the surname Tang, who allegedly performed the abduction, and a 56-year-old man with the surname Hu, who allegedly received and sold the boy to a family in Henan, per the Washington Post and Times. The pair were reportedly dating at the time of the abduction.
  • Couples sometimes bought young boys to raise as sons during the height of China's one-child policy, which ended in 2015. But even today, some reports estimate as many as 70,000 children are abducted each year in China. Some 2,609 missing or abducted children have been located since the start of 2020, per the South China Morning Post.

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  • Before this reunion, Guo and Zhang had celebrated by buying more than 1,000 pounds of candy for neighbors. In an interview, Zhang worried that her son would blame her for not watching him more closely. But Guo was jubilant. "Our child has been found," he said, per the Times. "From now on, only happiness is left."
  • "My darling, my darling, my darling," Zhang sobbed as she hugged the 26-year-old on Sunday. "We found you, my son, my son." "He's been delivered into your hands, so you need to love him well," Guo told her, his voice shaking, per the Times.
  • State media reports suggest the younger Guo will continue living with the couple that raised him but will visit his birth parents often. His birth father said he had no ill will toward the couple, whom he will now treat as "relatives," per the Guardian.

  • "Today, Lost and Love finally has a real happy ending," the 2015 film's director, Peng Sanyuan, said in a video, per the Times. The film ended with the protagonist, played by renowned Hong Kong actor Andy Lau, failing to find his son. But "someone may need to make a sequel," per the Post.
  • Guo blew through all his savings during more than two decades on the road, which found him sleeping under bridges and begging for food, according to Xinhua. "Only on the road, I felt I am a father," he told a newspaper in 2015, per the Post. "I have no reason to stop [searching]. And it's impossible for me to stop."
  • While he can finally stop his search, Guo is likely to continue helping other heartbroken parents search for their missing children through an organization he founded in 2012. The Post reports he's helped reunite at least seven families. According to Xinhua, "police have managed to locate more than 100 abducted children … with the help of clues provided by Guo."
(A 2-year-old boy abducted in China in 1988 was reunited with his birth parents last year.)

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