Guo Gangtang and his wife, Zhang Wenge, searched for nearly 24 years to find their missing two-year-old son — at long last, the family was reunited
In what is surely the most heartbreaking situation any parents could imagine, two parents in China had been searching for their son, who was abducted at age two, for nearly 24 years, with his father traversing more than 310,000 miles on a motorbike displaying his child’s photo in the hopes of someday finding him safe.
At long last, the family has been reunited with their missing son, after his father, Guo Gangtang, spent two dozen years traveling across the country on his motorcycle with a photo banner on the back of it, hoping he would be reunited with his son. Their child, born Guo Xinzhen, was abducted when he was playing outside his front door on September 21, 1997, according to The New York Times.
In the immediate aftermath of his disappearance, the Guo family’s friends and neighbors searched the region to look for him. But months later, when efforts began to wane, his father attached large banners printed with his photo to the back of his motorcycle, beginning a cross-country odyssey that spanned decades. Over time, he went through 10 different bikes, sleeping outside and even experiencing one accident and many near-miss moments, all with the determination to find his son.
The family was finally reunited on Sunday after police confirmed a DNA match, with Guo’s wife, Zhang Wenge, sobbing as she embraced her child.
At the time when their son went missing, child abduction was linked in China to a one-child policy, with some couples buying young boys on the black market to ensure they would have a son, according to research by scholars at Xiamen University in Fujian Province. Chinese traditions and culture have favored sons over daughters, and the couple’s son was among the children trafficked to a family. Though the policy has been lifted, child abduction remains a problem in the country.
Along with efforts to find his own son, Guo began serving as an advocate for fellow parents of abducted children, according to the New York Times. In 2012, he created an organization that has successfully reunited families with their missing loved ones over the years as he continued searching for his own son, and in recent years he used social media to promote anti-trafficking awareness. In 2015, the family’s story gained national attention when it was turned into a movie called Lost and Love.
Finally, the family is together safely again, with the movie’s director, Peng Sanyuan, sharing a message on Douyin, a social media app, writing, “Today, Lost and Love finally has a real happy ending.”
Ahead of their reunion, Guo told reporters, “Our child has been found. From now on, only happiness is left.” Not only are we crying all the happy tears over this story, we’re also wishing all the best for this family as they reconnect and finally get to share in the joy of finding each other after so much time. Whew!