A happy ending, at last

Father reunited with abducted son after decades-long search


Lau: played Guo in 2015 movie

In the 2015 film Lost and Love, Andy Lau plays a father searching for his kidnapped son for 15 years. Along the way he meets a young man that was trafficked as a kid and together they work to find his parents too.

Now, however, there is reason to film a sequel to the acclaimed film, because Guo Gangtang, the man on whom Lau’s character was based, has been reunited with his child – 24 years after the boy was kidnapped and sold to a family who wanted a son.

“My darling, my darling,” sobbed Guo’s wife, Zhang Wenge, as she hugged the son she hadn’t seen in over two decades.

State media footage of the July 11 reunion shows Guo trying to comfort his sobbing wife as he wipes away tears of his own.

The young man – now 26 years-old – has not been identified but is known to have worked in Linzhou in Henan province, about 230 kilometres from his birth parents’ home in Shandong province.

He was abducted from outside his house when he was just two and his father spent years driving around China on a motorbike looking for his missing child.

In the end, however, it was the police who finally found the missing 26 year-old as part of a new, technology-based drive to reunite the many thousands of families who have been separated by child trafficking.

Since June of last year, 2,066 missing persons have been found. Incredibly one individual had been untraceable for 61 years.

Guo’s son was first identified through facial recognition technology and was later confirmed to be the missing child by a DNA test.

Until the point he was contacted by police he had believed himself to be the biological child of the couple who bought him for Rmb6,000 ($927.35) in 1997.

The abductors have since been arrested, but the parents who bought him are unlikely to face charges because the legislation that made their actions explicitly illegal only came into force after they purchased the child, state media said.

Guo covered more than 500,000 kilometres in his search for his son – visiting every province and region apart from Xinjiang and Tibet.

Much of his search was conducted before most Chinese had access to the internet, so he attached two giant flags bearing his son’s image to the back of his motorbike as he drove around.

“Only on the road do I feel like a father,” he once told an interviewer – a line that was then uttered by Lau in the film about the ordeal.

Although Guo didn’t manage to find his son himself, he worked effectively with the media to highlight the plight of missing children, eventually establishing a website called Let Love Go Home.

The Ministry of Public Security have praised his efforts, saying that he has been instrumental in helping over a hundred families find their missing children.

Child abduction rates peaked in China in the 1980s and 1990s as families illicitly sought out sons, motivated by the constraints of the One-Child Policy.

Official numbers are hard to come by but in 2015 the US State Department estimated that as many as 20,000 Chinese babies were still being trafficked every year. Baby Come Home, one of the largest organisations dedicated to finding China’s missing children, had 36,000 families registered as members in 2018.

According to the Chongqing Daily, all of the younger Guo’s neighbours knew that his ‘parents’ had bought him but he was never told. Since meeting his real parents the 26 year-old has indicated that he will stay with the family that brought him up and visit his biological parents only on holidays.

“As long as one child is still missing, as long as there’re still people who are struggling to find their own flesh and blood like Guo Gangtang, the pain caused by child trafficking to society cannot be wiped out,” the Beijing News lamented.

© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.