TikTok videos reunite Chinese wanderer with his family 600km away after eight years missing

  • Restaurant owner posts videos of the 28-year-old, who is recognised by his sister
  • Reason for his disappearance remain unknown
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 5:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 9:21pm

A homeless Chinese man who had been wandering around China for eight years has been reunited with his family after footage of him was uploaded to the video sharing site TikTok by a local shopkeeper.

Zhu Lei, now 28, went missing while working in Shanghai on May 18, 2010, family members told Qianjiang Evening News. According to his sister Zhu Huanhuan, he is married with a son, aged 10.

Since 2010, he appears to have been begging and wandering around eastern China, eventually ending up in Huzhen town in Quzhou city, Zhejiang province, about 600km (370 miles) south of his hometown in Anhui province, Hefei Evening News reported.

When Zhu appeared outside a restaurant in Huzhen, the kindhearted owner, Zheng Yijie, took pity and offered him meals. A neighbouring shop owner gave him old coats and shoes to keep him warm.

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They both wanted to help Zhu return to his family, so Zheng decided to post videos of him to TikTok – known as Douyin in China – in the hope that viewers would spread the word.

Zheng’s first two videos, posted on November 4, quickly amassed a total of about 500,000 views.

However, reminded by people commenting on them that the man’s messy hair and long beard would make it less easy for his family to recognise him, Zheng filmed another video three days later, featuring her giving Zhu a haircut, and her wish was granted as Zhu’s sister contacted her that afternoon.

She had identified Zhu by a scar on his left knee, left when she had accidentally cut him with a sickle when he was seven years old. Two days later, on November 9, Zhu was reunited with his relatives.

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It was not the first time a video sharing platform had helped relatives to reunite. Cai Yanqiu uses his account on the live-streaming app Huya to help homeless people find their families and has had 38 successes, according to a report in March by China Youth Daily.

As of 2014, China had nearly 2,000 shelters and 20,000 social workers dedicated to its estimated 3 million homeless people, according to official figures from the civil affairs ministry.

Until 2003, it had operated a repatriation system that allowed police to detain beggars and homeless people who could not prove they lived in the local area, before sending them back to their hometown.