But this week — 24 years after his disappearance — the search for Guo finally came to an end.
Police in Liaocheng City, Shandong province, said Monday they had found Guo, now an adult living in neighboring Henan province — and had reunited him with his parents. Video footage of the reunion on Sunday, released by police, shows the family in tears and embracing tightly, crying out, “We found you, you’ve come back.”
Police said they had arrested two people who confessed to kidnapping and trafficking Guo.
The case was never closed, and police say they continued investigating throughout the 24 years.
He carried little with him except a bag full of fliers, and a flag emblazoned with a picture of his son. He used up all his savings and racked up staggering debts, burning through 10 motorcycles on his long journey, Xinhua reported.
His search gained national attention when it inspired a 2015 movie, “Lost and Love,” starring Hong Kong actor Andy Lau.
Gangtang couldn’t find his son — but managed to help track down more than 100 other abducted children and reunite them with their families, according to Xinhua.
This year, authorities hit upon a new lead. Using the latest technology including DNA analysis and facial feature comparison, the Ministry of Public Security found a potential match in Henan — and when officers tracked the man down, DNA testing confirmed that it was the missing Guo Xinzhen.
Police detained a suspected child trafficker identified only as Hu, and his ex-girlfriend identified as Tang, according to the police’s social media post. The two confessed after interrogation, saying Tang had abducted Guo Xinzhen in 1997. She then met up with Hu, and the then-couple took a bus back to Henan, where they sold the child.
It is unclear who Guo Xinzhen was sold to, and no further details of his upbringing were provided by police.