LIAOCHENG, China — For more than two decades, a Chinese couple tirelessly searched for their son who was kidnapped as a toddler near their home 24 years ago. On Sunday, they were finally reunited with him.
Cameras captured the emotional moment Guo Gangtang and Zhang Wenge embraced their now 26-year-old son, Guo Xinzhen, in their hometown of Liaocheng. The teary-eyed reunion marked the end of their desperate search.
The family says they never stopped looking for their son, even as they lost nearly everything. Over the years, CNN reports the father wore down 10 motorbikes and the family incurred staggering debts as they scoured nearly all of China.
"I thought maybe there is a ray of hope to find my son if I go out searching for him. The kidnapper would never send my son back anyway. If I stayed at home, there is no chance. So, since the end of 1997, I began the search for my son," said Guo Gangtang.
Though the father never found his son over those 24 years, he did help dozens of other abducted children find their way home. CNN reports that the man managed to help reunite about 100 other abducted children with their families. His story even inspired a 2015 film called “Lost and Love.”
The missing child case remained unsolved for years, but it was never closed, until now.
Police in China said they’ve arrested the two people who’ve confessed to trafficking the child. The Associated Press reports that the couple’s son was grabbed by a woman and her boyfriend who took the child to the Hebei province near Beijing before they sold the boy to a couple in central China.
In their search for the couple’s child, police used new DNA analysis and facial feature comparison to find a potential match and then did DNA testing to confirm that they had found the long-lost son, CNN reports.
"Even though the current appearance of abductees can vastly differ from that when they were missing as children, the experts made bold innovative moves and broke through various obstacles and technical barriers,” said Tong Bishan, Deputy Director with a Criminal Investigation Bureau.
Child abduction and trafficking is a long-standing problem in China, with officials estimating that tens of thousands of children go missing each year. Many aren’t as lucky as Guo Xinzhen and his parents to be reunited.
CNN contributed to this report.