A man in China has been reunited with his son nearly a quarter of a century after he was snatched from his home by a stranger and sold. 

Guo Gangtang’s son had been quietly playing outside their home in Shandong province in the country’s east in 1997 when a woman kidnapped him out of the blue, taking him to a nearby bus station where her then partner was waiting. 

The pair then took Mr Guo’s son to Henan province, more than 350 miles away, and sold him. 

Mr Guo has spent the intervening years desperately searching for his boy, riding across China on a motorbike and clocking up hundreds of thousands of miles. His story was the basis for the film “Lost and Love”, in which famous Hong Kong actor Andy Lau plays a father looking for his child.

A scene for the film Lost and Love in which Andy Lau plays a father looking for his child

“Only by searching can I feel like a true father,” Lau’s character says in the 2015 movie.

Guo and his son were finally reunited on Sunday after their DNA samples were matched through a police operation. 

The tearful pair were pictured clinging to each other at a ceremony organized by police from Shandong and Henan provinces.

Guo Xinzhen is tearfully reunited with his family 24 years after he was abducted

Guo Xinzhen was apparently tracked down after he gave a blood sample in June as part of a police operation to find missing children. Authorities were able to match up his sample with his father’s.

Tong Bishan, the deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security’s criminal investigation bureau, said that a man and woman had been arrested in connection with Xinzhen’s abduction, and that the inquiry was ongoing. 

Mr Guo was 27 when his son was abducted. In the years that followed, he rode his motorbike across all of China’s 23 provinces, travelling more than 250,000 miles and reaching everywhere but the large sprawling regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. As he searched for his own son, he was also able to help several other families find their own missing children.   

Guo Gangtang with a picture of Xinzhen aged two

“As the father of an abducted child, Guo Gangtang has always maintained a rational, calm state of mind and indomitable will in the 24 years of searching for his son, despite the pain and suffering of losing his child,” Mr Tong told a press conference on Tuesday. 

“While riding a motorcycle, he travelled hundreds of thousands of kilometres in search of his child, while actively participating in anti-trafficking volunteer activities, and collecting timely feedback about missing and abducted children for the public security organs. Through the clues he provided, the public security organs found more than 100 children who had been abducted for many years,” Mr Tong added. 

Guo Xinzhen was just two years old when he was snatched

Child abduction and trafficking is a chronic problem in China. Limits on the number of children couples can have, as well as a traditional preference for boys, have fuelled a thriving market in babies and children. 

In 2016, authorities launched a “Reunion” platform, where people can post photos and information about missing children, as well as the times and locations of their disappearances. 

As part of “Reunion”, authorities in June opened up more than 3,000 blood collection sites for people to give samples. Nearly 10,000 people voluntarily did, and as a result 306 families found their missing children, according to Tong. As part of this action, authorities discovered Guo’s son was in Henan province.

From January to April this year, authorities rescued more than 700 missing or abducted children, and arrested 86 people in connection with their disappearances, the Ministry of Public Security said earlier this year. 

Some of those children had been separated from their families for more than 30 years, it added.

Wen Xu in Beijing contributed research