Reunion after 24 years puts China's DNA database for missing children under spotlight
Published: Jul 15, 2021 10:40 PM
Parents hug their child surnamed Wang, who has been abducted for 26 years, in Southwest China's Chongqing. Photo: VCG

Parents hug their child surnamed Wang, who has been abducted for 26 years, in Southwest China's Chongqing. Photo: VCG

The whole country has been brimming with warmth and joy after a Chinese father's cross-country, 24-year search for his missing son finally had a happy ending. The story of the family's reunion also pushed China's nationwide DNA database of missing children into the public spotlight, as it put an end to the father's decades-long odyssey. 

The database has successfully found 2,609 missing children among 1.4 billion people within nearly seven months. How does the system work?

This week, Guo Gangtang and his wife were reunited with their son, now 26, after the police matched their DNA, according to China's Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

Guo's arduous journey in the search for his missing son, during which he said he was thrown from his bike at least once and slept outdoors when he could not afford a hotel, inspired the 2015 film Lost and Love, starring the renowned Hong Kong actor Andy Lau.

The MPS said the police were able to trace the son's identity and find him through DNA testing. 

Parents of missing children need to have their DNA information recorded by the police, and missing children found by the police need to do the same, an expert from the Chinese People's Public Security University, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times. In recent years, public security bureaus all around the country have collected such information from parents who reported missing children. As long as parents have their DNA information collected and sent to the police, finding the children may be a matter of time, said the anonymous expert. 

After the MPS launched the campaign called Tuanyuan (Reunion) in January, a total of 2,609 missing children were found, according to a notice sent to the Global Times by the ministry. It also set up more than 3,000 free blood sample collection points across the country, which later helped reunite 306 families. 

The now 63-year-old "Ji Xian" - who was separated from his parents in 1963 - found his biological mother, who is now more than 90 years old, thanks to the effort of the police during this campaign. 

The MPS announced the development of a DNA database in April 2009, which was primarily aimed at finding missing or abducted children.

The MPS also joined hands with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and created a system for posting information about missing children in 2018. The system helps to disseminate missing children's information to its users and mobilize them to take action.

As of May this year, the system had published 4,801 items concerning missing children, of whom 4,707 were found, the company told the Global Times.

The system revealed that 51.5 percent of the lost children were boys, and 63 percent had chosen to run away from their homes.