Son Reunites with Parents 32 Years After Kidnapping — Thanks to Facial Recognition Technology
A Chinese couple who spent more than three decades searching for their son after he was abducted in the late ‘80s were reunited with him on Monday, bringing to a close what local media called one of the county’s “most notorious” missing child cases.
Mao Yin, now 34, was headed home from kindergarten in Xian with his father Mao Zhenjing in 1988 when he said he was thirsty, mom Li Jingzhi told the South China Morning Post.
The older Mao stopped at the entrance of a hotel to get his son some water and briefly looked away, during which time his son was snatched and ultimately sold to a couple who didn't have children for the equivalent of $840 today, the BBC reported.
Li and her husband dedicated their lives to tracking down their son, and after she quit her job to focus full-time on the search, Li became a frequent face on Chinese television shows, where she’d plead for help, according to the BBC.
The now grown-up Mao Ling said that he’d seen Li talking about her missing son on TV before, but didn’t realize he was the son in question, CNN reported.
The arduous search finally came to a close in early May after Xian police used facial recognition technology to analyze old photos of Mao, according to the Morning Post.
After they created a simulated image of what he might look like now, they compared that photo to those in a national database, and a DNA test finally confirmed that he was, in fact, Li’s son, CNN reported. He was reportedly living more than 600 miles away, and going by the name Gu Ningning.
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Though Li learned her son had been found on May 10, which is Mother’s Day in China, the family was finally reunited on Monday in a police news conference streamed by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
“This is the best gift I have ever got,” Li reportedly said of finding out the happy news.
The overjoyed parents were seen breaking down in tears during the reunion as they pulled their son in for a hug for the first time in 32 years.
“I don’t want him to leave me anymore,” Li reportedly said. “I won’t let him leave me anymore.”
The BBC reported that an investigation into his abduction is still ongoing, and that no information has been released about the couple who raised him, though Mao has said he will move to Xian to live with his biological parents.
China does not keep official tallies on how many children are kidnapped each year, though there are more than 51,000 families registered on Baby Come Home, a popular platform used by parents to share missing child notices, according to CNN.