BANGKOK (AP) — After 24 years of heartache and searching, a Chinese couple were reunited with their son who was abducted as a toddler outside their front gate.
Guo Gangtang and his wife, Zhang Wenge, hugged their 26-year-old son with tears in their eyes Sunday at a reunion organized by police in their hometown of Liaocheng in the eastern province of Shandong, according to a video recording released by police.
The story of their reunion after Guo crisscrossed China by motorcycle searching for his son and became an activist who helped police return other missing children to their parents prompted an outpouring of public sympathy and condemnation of abductions.
Guo Xinzhen, then age 2 1/2, was grabbed by a woman and her boyfriend who took him northwest to Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, the Chinese capital, according to police. From there, he was sold to a couple in central China.
Abductions of children for sale are reported regularly in China, though how often it happens is unclear.
The problem is aggravated by restrictions that until 2015 allowed most urban couples only one child. Boys are sold to couples who want a son to look after them in old age. Girls go to parents who want a servant or a bride for an only son.
Police experts found Guo Xinzhen in June by searching databases for images of people who looked like he might as an adult, according to a police ministry statement. His identity was confirmed by a DNA test.
The woman and her boyfriend, identified only by the surnames Tang and Hu, were caught and confessed to trafficking three boys, according to the ministry. They have yet to stand trial, but potential penalties range up to death.
Blood samples from Guo Xinzhen’s parents were added to an “anti-abduction DNA system,” but no matches were found with boys who were believed to have been abducted, the police ministry said.
Kidnappers target children who are too young to know their names or hometowns and sometimes even that they were abducted.
“So happy for Mr. Guo,” said a post signed Ding Dalong on the Zhihu social media platform. “He found his long-lost son and can move on with his own life.”
Others called for buyers of trafficked children to be punished. There was no word on whether the couple who bought Guo Xinzhen would face penalties.