A Chinese teenager appears to have taken his own life after the story of him being sold as an infant by his birth parents and recently reunited with them went viral.
Liu Xuezhou, 17, was found dead early Monday on a beach by local authorities in the city of Sanya, in China's southern Hainan province, according to the Chinese news outlet The Paper.
Liu, a trainee teacher from Shijiazhuang city in the northeastern Hebei province, posted a video in early December appealing for help to find his birth parents, who he said had sold him to his adoptive parents in 2005.
His story quickly went viral and two weeks later he found his birth father, Ding Shuangquan, with the help of police and DNA evidence.
Authorities in the city of Datong in Shaanxi province arranged a meeting between Liu and Ding on Dec. 26.
Two weeks later, Liu met his birth mother, identified only by her surname, Zhang, in a separate location.
The couple had separated and both had new families of their own, according to The Beijing News newspaper.
Liu posted footage of both meetings on Douyin, which TikTok is known as in China. He described both meetings as "happy."
But things quickly turned sour.
Screenshots posted on Liu’s Douyin account last Monday showed Zhang had blocked him on WeChat, a popular messaging app in China.
In a separate post, he said, Ding had refused to allow him into his home because he was worried his wife would divorce him. “Do you not think about how your own son has survived for over 10 years,” he said.
Two days later, Zhang told The Beijing News that Liu had borrowed money from them to travel and made repeated demands for them to buy him a house in Hebei, something they could not afford.
Liu quickly denied the allegations in a post on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, saying they left him “speechless.”
“When did I ask you to buy a house in Hebei?... Please don’t deliberately pick words to make yourselves blameless,” he wrote.
The story divided opinion on Chinese social media, with some supporting his parents and others arguing that he deserved support.
Neither Ding or Zhang could be reached for comment.
It’s unknown how many children are sold in China, but a traditional preference for male children and the draconian one-child policy, in place for 36 years until it ended in 2015, had fueled a black market for infant boys.
Abducted children's reunions with their birth parents have become increasingly common in China, after authorities set up a dedicated task force to identify missing children in 2016.
Before his body was found Monday, Liu posted a lengthy note on his Weibo account. He said that he was inspired to track down his birth parents after seeing footage of a tearful reunion between a father and his long-lost son in Shenzhen last month.
But then his post quickly took a darker turn.
“I was born worthless, when I returned I still found nothing,” he wrote.
He said his adoptive parents passed away in a fireworks accident when he was 4 years old, and alleged that he had been sexually abused by a teacher when he was a child.
“The sun is shining on the sea. I belong to the sky and sea. Here I end my life, I will bring with me this world’s most beautiful view,” he wrote.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.