Parents who spent decades looking for their son who was abducted as a toddler in China were finally reunited with him Monday after 32 years, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. Mao Yin was reported missing when he was 2 years old.
The little boy was abducted at the entrance of a hotel in the Shaanxi province, Xinhua news agency reported. His mother, Li Jingzhi, told the South China Morning Post that his father was bringing Mao home from kindergarten when they stopped at the hotel for a drink of water in 1988.
“He disappeared in a matter of seconds while his father briefly looked away,” Li told the news outlet.
From that point on, Mao’s parents searched for him across the country. His mother quit her job and distributed more than 100,000 flyers. She joined volunteers with a group called “Baby Come Back Home” to gather information about missing children and provide it to police, Xinhua reported. She reportedly helped reunite 29 other abducted children with their families, while continuing to search for her own son.
In April, police received tip saying a man in southwest China had adopted a child from Xian for the price of $845. Investigators used an old photo of Mao and created a simulated image of what he could look as an adult, CCTV reported. They checked with a government database for possible matches and found a man named Gu Ningning who resembled Mao. A DNA test later proved Gu was the boy who was kidnapped decades earlier, according to state media.
Li and the boy’s father, Mao Zhenjing, found out the good news on Mother’s Day. A week later, the family hugged and shared an emotional embrace at Monday’s news conference.
“This is the best gift I have ever got,” Li said at the conference, according to the BBC.
Mao told Xinhua he would spend some time with his parents for a few days before returning home.
“To be honest, I’m not quite sure about the future yet,” he said.
Police are still investigating the details of Mao’s case, Xinhua reported. They have not released details about the parents who raised him.
Child abductions and trafficking have been an issue in China as the country’s longtime one-child policy gave rise to a robust black market for baby boys. While boys fetched higher prices, girls were frequently abducted and used as laborers or as brides for unwed sons, the Associated Press reported. In 2017, the United States declared China to be among the worst offenders of human trafficking.
While there are no official figures, according to Baby Come Back Home’s database, there are more than 51,000 people in China looking for their missing children. According to China’s ministry of public security, more than 6,300 children who were abducted have been reunited with their families via DNA tests since 2009, Xinhua reported.
Li said that while her son is found, she will continue to help families whose children have gone missing.
“I would like to thank the tens of thousands of people who helped us,” Li said, according to Xinhua. “I can’t believe that after helping 29 missing children find their families, I am able to find my own son.”