Their son was only two-and-a-half years old when he was kidnapped. His mom quit her job and focussed all her time and energy on finding him.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 3, 2020. It has since been updated.
One mother's decades-long search for her missing child showed her devotion and tenacity in the face of hardship. She and her husband helped at least 29 missing children unite with their families before they were able to find theirs. The resilience of the couple proves that loving parents can go to great lengths for the safety and well-being of their children.
A Chinese couple, Mao Zhenjing and Li Jingzhi, went through unimaginable pain after their child was kidnapped 32 years ago. Their son, Mao Yin, had been taken away when he was returning from his nursery school with his father. They had stopped at a hotel to buy water and his father had turned for only a moment when the child was kidnapped, according to South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Kidnapped Chinese toddler reunited with parents after 32 years A Chinese man who was abducted aged 2 from a hotel in 1988 has finally been reunited with his parents More on https://t.co/jSwkbAB6E1 pic.twitter.com/vX6k1G9eUu— Ahlain (@AhlainNews) June 2, 2020
Unfortunately, Yin, now 34, is not the only child who had been taken away from his parents in China, which has a child abduction problem thanks to its one-child policy and son preference. But, his case was one of the most famous ones since his mom tirelessly worked to find her only son, who was only two-and-a-half years old when he was kidnapped.
His mom, Li, quit her job and started looking for him tirelessly. She had initially started looking in villages and counties around Xi’an, where they lived. At one point, she even followed a lead to Sichuan, where her son had been living with adoptive parents, but she realized that the boy she had been looking for was a different one with the same name. She had been involved in a decades-long search for which she sent out more than 100,000 flyers and appeared on numerous TV shows, according to the Guardian. Her long campaign helped 29 families be reunited with their missing child.
"Hope is what motivates me," she said in an interview earlier in 2020, "I believe that someday I will find my son." And her pleas were finally heard.
He was kidnapped in Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province, in 1988 to be sold to a childless family, who raised him as their own. He was renamed as Gu Ningning by the adoptive parents and has become a home decorator. He was tracked down the police in early May after they got a tip-off. They had been told that a boy from Xi’an had been sold to a family just over 370 miles away, for 6,000 yuan, state media reported.
A hug overdue for 32 years! A Chinese man is finally reunited with his biological parents on Monday, 32 years after he was abducted. pic.twitter.com/Fw1vz3bDiD— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) May 20, 2020
They used facial recognition technology to analyze old photographs and were later able to confirm his identity using DNA testing. Miraculously, they called up Li on Mother's Day in China to tell her that her son had been found. She wept and was quoted by SCMP as saying, "This is the best gift I have ever got on Mother’s Day."
The 34-year-old man was reunited with his biological family in front of the media and public a week after Li got the call. The emotional family broke down when they saw each other. Yin had been waiting in a side room for his parents and when the doors opened he flew to her to embrace her. Both were in tears as they hugged each other. "To be honest, I’m not quite sure about the future yet," he said.
"I don’t want to be separated from him anymore," his mom said holding his hand. He said that he would return to live with his biological parents soon. "I would like to thank the tens of thousands of people who helped us," Li said, as per the Guardian. "I can’t believe that after helping 29 missing children find their families, I am able to find my own son." She remembers him as a “clever, cute and healthy” toddler.
There have been many children who have been snatched away from their parents and not many got to have a childhood. Many were sold and exploited by adults, including being forced into begging, pickpocketing, forced labour or the sex trade. Many others were given away as adoptees to Chinese parents looking for a son or foreign couples. In one case, a couple in the US found years later that their adopted girl from China was part of a twin. One was given up for adoption and the American family believed that they were rescuing a child.