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December 3, 2012

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Mom hardened but hopeful after tragedies

THE woman sits in a small, derelict appliance shop on Qiujiang Road, fixing broken toy robots, blowing cigarette smoke in the faces of customers and taunting them with a gruff "buy it or leave it."

Tang Weihua's brittle edge is not hard to understand. The 42-year-old has suffered through the kidnapping of her five-year-old son - never found - and the more recent cancer of her husband.

Her relentless search for evidence and witnesses against the man who kidnapped her son 13 years ago helped a court in February deliver a life sentence, just when the villain was finishing a term for human trafficking and due to be released.

Tang's journey of misery began in 1999 when she hired a man named Lu Shundong who was begging for a job outside her shop. Days later, he abducted Tang's son and demanded a ransom of 50,000 yuan (US$8,065). The case made headlines across China. The lad was never found.

In court, Lu said he left the boy at the railway station before catching a train. In other testimony, he told police that he boarded the train with the boy and took him to the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where he drowned him.

The court victory and life sentence meted out in February were supposed to bring some closure for Tang and her husband. They planned a trip to Europe to temporarily escape from all the sad memories and anger. But then Tang's husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August.

"You can't imagine how many unexpected tragedies have occurred," Tang said recently. "It's like a dark tide coming in from nowhere, attempting to swallow you up."

Now the burden of family care is on her shoulders. Her husband has had surgery, and Tang is waiting for a medical report on whether he needs further chemotherapy.

"I was thinking that our battle had finally come to an end because we could stop searching for evidence and witnesses and just live the life of a normal couple," said Tang.

"When we first got the cancer diagnosis, I cried all the way home from the hospital," she said. "I wondered if we haven't paid enough 'debts' for our life. And then I told myself that everything would be fine because we have lived through much worse."

But her grief over her son hasn't left her. The couple's search across China for their son in the past decade has turned up no leads. Her son would now be 18, and she prefers to think he is still alive somewhere.

"Maybe we have passed by on the street but didn't recognize each other with a glance," she said.

How have the abduction and the court case changed you as a person?
As a woman, I have lost the quality of tenderness. I stopped crying and stopped begging for some arrogant officials to help me. I didn't persuade witnesses to come forth by shedding tears. I asked them to follow their consciences.

How have the past few months affected your life?
I've learned to be wary of people. Some "friends" in the media may only want to use me as material for another eye-catching, sensational article to sell papers. Some used my case to attack the county's judicial system. And one "friend" from a government department whom I turned to for help was only interested in sexual payment for his services.

What are your plans for the future?
I'm writing a book. I've already completed 174 pages, telling how we have crisscrossed China, walking through villages, forests and mountains in a desperate search for our son. I'm thinking about writing the other half now, telling how I sent the kidnapper to jail for life. I will call the book "My Journey of Misery."

Now it's a life sentence for man who seized boy

A chilling stare and recanted testimony

Friend turns on prisoner, who now likely faces murder trial

? Mom: 'My son is still alive and waiting'


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