A Chinese man who vanished for 16 years has finally been reunited with his parents.
The man, known only as “Wang,” was too ashamed to face his family after failing out of college in 2005.
He was identified as a missing person and re-connected with his family after he showed up this year at a local government office to renew his ID.
A Chinese man who vanished for 16 years after failing to graduate from college has finally been reunited with his family.
The 39-year-old man, who is known only by his surname, Wang, was reunited with his family in China’s Xi’an city on November 16. Xiashi News, a local media outlet in China’s northern Shaanxi Province, filmed the reunion.
In a video posted on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, a crying Wang is seen falling to his knees and apologizing to his mother, who saw him on Tuesday for the first time since 2005.
According to a statement from the Xi’an Customs Authority, Wang was a top student in high school back in 2001. But in 2005, he ended up cutting off all contact with his family, who lived 10 hours away in Shandong province. This was because he felt deeply embarrassed and unable to face his parents after he got addicted to video games and failed out of college.
Chang’an University, where Wang studied, is designated as a 211 Project college, the Chinese government’s term for a category of over 100 high-ranking universities across the country.
Wang spent 16 years away from home, working in Xi’an in a series of odd jobs which did not require him to officially register with the local government, per the Xi’an Customs Authority. But he was finally connected with his family after he showed up at a local Xi’an government office to renew his ID. Government officials later found out that Wang was listed as a missing person and contacted his family in Shandong.
Speaking to Chinese online media outlet Bailu TV, Wang said he worked menial jobs that paid for food and lodging during his 16 years away from home but did not return because of the shame.
While Wang’s response might have been extreme, the Chinese education system has been known to produce high levels of academic stress. While the constant push for young people to succeed at all costs may have led to the trend of some 20-somethings “lying flat” in rebellion and rejecting the rat race, Chinese parents continue to enthusiastically bought into “jiwa” (or “chicken blood”) parenting, which aims to make children work harder to exceed expectations.
The Chinese education system itself might also exacerbate the fear of academic failure. For one, in 2018, the Chinese government changed its policies to ban “clearing tests,” also known as a do-over for university students who’ve failed tests twice, with the purpose of applying pressure on undergraduates to get a passing grade on their first try.
Wang’s father told Bailu TV that for the last 16 years, he has been traveling to Xi’an at least twice a year to search for his son.
“Every time I came, I would stay for around a week. I’ve walked every street in Xi’an and gone to every internet cafe. It broke our hearts to not be able to find him,” Wang’s father said.
Wang’s mother told Xiashi News that she had “prepared for the worst,” and thought for years that her son was likely dead.
“We hadn’t heard from him for so long, and it made me unhappy every day to think about what could have happened to him,” Wang’s mother told the news outlet. “But I don’t blame him. I am just happy to see him again.”
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