He Was Kidnapped 32 Years Ago. Now, He's Been Reunited With His Parents

Mao Yin went missing in 1988, when he was only two years old. His parents had been searching for him for 32 years. They were just reunited.

Robin Zlotnick - Author

May 19 2020, Updated 2:23 p.m. ET

In 1988, Mao Yin, then 2 years old, and his father, stopped near the Jinling Hotel in Xian, China. His father turned his back for a minute to get water for the young boy. When he turned back, his son was gone.

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In the 32 years since then, Mao's mother, Li, has given out more than 100,000 missing child fliers, according to the South China Morning Post. She never gave up looking for her son. And in 2020, they were finally reunited after all that time. 

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It turns out Mao Yin was kidnapped and sold to another family, who adopted him and raised him as their own son. They paid 6,000 yuan ($843) to adopt him. He was renamed Gu Ningning by his adoptive parents. As he lived what he thought was a normal life, his real parents searched constantly for him. 

In one instance, Li thought she'd found him. She traveled to different cities and tracked down the boy, who had the same nickname as her son, but when she found him, it wasn't him. But she never lost faith that she would someday be reunited with her boy.

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Li appeared on television shows numerous times over the years to raise awareness of the thousands of children that are missing across the country. She hoped that perhaps her own son would see her on TV and know that she was out there still looking for him. 

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She worked for "Baby Come Home," a platform that tracks down kidnapped children. She followed 300 leads to see if they were her son, but none were. 

Ultimately, according to the South China Morning Post, "Mao, who now runs a home decoration business, was tracked down in early May bu Xian police who used facial recognition technology to analyze old photos of the boy. His identity was later confirmed using DNA testing."

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The police told Li that her son had been found on Mother's Day. They reunited officially at a press conference, and it was extremely emotional. Li burst into tears as Mao ran into her arms. 

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"I don't want to be separated from him anymore," she said. Mao's abduction is still under investigation, and no information about his adoptive parents has been released, but the most important thing is that, after 32 years of tireless searching, Li and her son are together again. 

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According to CCTV, Mao grew up with his adoptive parents in Sichuan and went to university. Now, he set up and runs an interior design business. His case was part of a larger effort by China's Ministry of Public Security to help fight human trafficking in China.

In 2009, the Ministry set up a DNA database, which has now been used to find more than 6,300 missing children. It took 32 years for Li and Mao to be reunited. Hopefully, now that the Chinese government has started cracking down, more children will be reunited with their families and fewer children will be kidnapped at all. 

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