NETIZENS across China have come together to help a recovering Covid-19 patient find his missing son.
Posts with the hashtag “Looking for Yue Yuetong”, his photograph and details have spread like wildfire on social media sites.
Many people sent well wishes to the father while contributing to efforts to reunite the family.
The 44-year-old father, identified only as Yue, was one of dozens of people infected with the virus in Beijing recently.
Health authorities discovered that the migrant worker from Weihai city in eastern Shandong province had worked at nearly 30 sites in multiple districts, carrying construction material for several weeks.
His irregular work schedule from late at night to the wee hours of the morning came to light after the city’s disease prevention and control centre (CDC) revealed the places where Yue had been.
It went viral, with netizens labelling him as “the man with the most arduous life in epidemiological tracking”.
(It is a practice of the Chinese government to reveal the movement of each patient in the past two to three weeks to alert the public so that those who may have come into close contact can take precautionary measures. This strategy has contributed to controlling the spread of the virus in the country.)
Yue took a nucleic acid test on Jan 17 before heading home for the Chinese New Year festival. He boarded a train bound for home the next morning but received a call from the CDC informing him that he had tested positive.
He was not allowed to leave and was transferred to a hospital.
It was later revealed that the asymptomatic carrier had ventured on an 800km journey to the Chinese capital in search of his eldest son who went missing in August 2020.
The father, a former fisherman, went to places where his son could possibly be, but to no avail.
He took up odd jobs and would often sleep in the ATM room of banks.
“I moved on to another city when I saved up enough money for the trip,” he said.
Yue had travelled to more than 10 cities and towns looking for his 21-year-old son while another son, aged 12, stayed back in Weihai with his wife, who earns 100 yuan (RM66) a day drying seaweed.
He came to Beijing, where his elder son had worked as a kitchen helper in November, but went home after 15 days to take care of his paralysed father, 76, after his mother, 66, fractured her arm.
He returned to the Chinese capital to carry on with his mission in December.
Yue rented a 10sq m room for 700 yuan per month (RM462) in a housing estate about 15km from the city centre.
He was paid one yuan (RM0.66) for conveying 30kg sacks of sand or 50kg sacks of cement, and an additional one yuan for each floor he climbed.
According to epidemiological records, he hardly ate out and only had a meal at an eatery once during that period.
“I cook noodles or eat dumplings or porridge bought from the store (to save money).
“I made about 10,000 yuan (RM6,600) during my stay in Beijing,” he told China Newsweek.
During his free time, Yue would go from restaurant to restaurant in search of his son. He even went to mortuaries.
He said Yuetong, who worked at a factory in the neighbouring Rongcheng city, some 60km away from home, went missing after leaving his workplace.
“My son told his superior that he needed to go home to see his mother. His boss sent him to the bus station but he did not arrive home,” he added.
Yue claimed that the police, after giving various excuses, only opened a file on his son three months later.
Yet, he was still given the runaround.
He blamed the cops, saying his son would have been found if there had been no delay.
Yue only had praise for Good Samaritans who, along the way offered him water, food and other assistance.
“At the hospital, a worker from the CDC wanted to give me back the 414 yuan (RM273) I spent on the unused train ticket.
“The centre also topped up 150 yuan (RM100) on my cellphone after finding out I had run out of credit. They are all good people,” he said.
Yue is one of the 286 million migrant workers who usually take up odd jobs or work in construction, the catering or retail sectors in the cities.
His story has touched the hearts of the Chinese public deeply.
“I don’t steal, I don’t rob, I work to earn a living and to care of my family.
“To look for my son, I have spent tens of thousands of yuan and I will go on like this until I find him, even if I have to pay with my life,” he added.
In an unexpected development, police revealed that Yuetong had died.
In a statement released on Friday, Weihai police said Yuetong’s body was retrieved from a pond in Rongcheng where he worked, some three weeks after he went missing.
The remains were decomposed and beyond recognition. Police have ruled out foul play.
Police added that Yue had been informed of the recovery after a DNA test, but the father refused to acknowledge the finding.
So the remains are left unclaimed.
When asked, Yue told the local media that he had not seen the DNA report, alleging that the police had turned down his request to see the document.
He claimed that he had made several enquiries on the identity of the body but the answers given were unsatisfactory.
He still refuses to believe the body found is his son’s.