Guo Gangtang never gave up looking for his son, who was 2½ years old when he was abducted in 1997.

By Joelle Goldstein
July 15, 2021
Advertisement
back view of father son
Credit: Getty Images

A father who spent decades searching for his kidnapped son in China was finally reunited with him after 24 long years.

Guo Gangtang's world was shattered in 1997 when his then 2½-year-old son, Guo Xinzhen, was abducted outside his home, according to the South China Morning Post.

For 24 years, Gangtang, 51, desperately searched all over China, traveling more than 300,000 miles by motorcycle, in hopes that he would be reunited with his boy, the outlet reported.

And on Sunday, he finally got that moment.

After police tracked down Xinzhen and confirmed his identity through DNA, the now-26-year-old man was reunited with his parents for the first time in over two decades, BBC News reported.

The emotional moment, which was captured on film by state media CCTV, showed Gangtang and his wife bawling on their son's shoulder while they all embraced in Liaocheng, Shandong.

"My baby, you came back!" said his mother, whose name was not released, in the clip.

"Now that the child has been found, everything can only be happy from now on," Gangtang told reporters at the scene, according to BBC News.

"Today is very important for me," he added on social media, per the Morning Post. "My kid has been found. The future is full of happiness. God treats us kindly."

Xinzhen was kidnapped by a woman on Sept. 21, 1997, while playing outside his home in the village of Liaocheng, the Morning Post reported.

In the month following the kidnapping, Gangtang lost more than 40 pounds, going from 80kg (176 lbs.) to 60kg (132 lbs.), and had all of his hair turn white, according to the outlet.

He then vowed to do something with his devastation and set out to find his son, journeying across all mainland provinces and regions in China (except Tibet and Xinjiang) to pass out flyers and gain information, the Morning Post reported.

During this time, Gangtang was a victim of road accidents and bullying and even had to sleep under bridges when he ran out of money for hotels, according to the outlet.

He also wore out 10 different motorcycles — all of which had a large banner with his son's photo and information attached. It was that photo of his son that ultimately prevented Gangtang from taking his own life at one point during his arduous journey.

"My son seemed to be saying to me, 'Dad, Xiao Liu [the boy's nickname] is accompanying you in the rainstorm,'" Gangtang said, per the Morning Post. "Many people say I am a great father. But I am not great at all. I am helpless. I just lack the courage to restart life after experiencing tremendous hardship. Therefore I kept on searching."

His relentless pursuit to find his son later inspired the 2015 film, Lost and Love, which starred Hong Kong actor Andy Lau, the Morning Post reported.

"Only on the road, I felt I am a father," Gangtang told the Shandong-based Qilu News in 2015, per the Morning Post. "I have no reason to stop [searching]. And it's impossible for me to stop."

It wasn't until this past June that police in Henan found Xinzhen and ran a blood test on him, later confirming him as Gangtang's son, according to the Morning Post.

Authorities ultimately determined a woman with the surname Tang, who was the girlfriend of a man with the surname Hu, kidnapped Xinzhen as a toddler, the local outlet reported, citing the Ministry of Public Security.

The couple took the boy to the province of Henan, where Hu sold him, per the outlet.

Tang, 45, was arrested last month while Hu, 56, was already in a Shanxi jail for a different crime when police connected him to the kidnapping and identified him as a suspect, according to the Morning Post.

The family who raised Xinzhen was believed to be "financially decent" and reportedly gave him "a university education," Peng Sanyuan, the director of Lost and Love, told the Chutian Metropolis News after the reunion, per the Morning Post.

Lau also spoke out after Xinzhen reunited with his parents, whom he got to know while filming, and said he felt "happy and thrilled" for the family.

"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, before calling for public support of the police and their anti-abduction work, per the Morning Post.

This story originally appeared on people.com