- BBC News World
He was kidnapped and separated from his family more than three decades ago, when he was just 4 years old, and now he has managed to rediscover his biological mother.
Told like this, Li Jingwei’s story already seems extraordinary, but in reality it is much more so since this reunion was only possible thanks to a map that he managed to draw of his native village, based on his childhood memories.
Being very young, Li was kidnapped and sold by a human trafficking ring.
On December 24, he shared on the social network of videos Douyin a hand drawing he had made of how he remembered his hometown, which served for the police to identify the town as well as a woman there whose son had disappeared.
After some DNA tests that confirmed their identities, they both met this saturday in Yunnan province.
Video footage of their reunion after more than 30 years shows Li Jingwei carefully removing her mother’s protective anticovid mask to examine her face before bursting into tears as she hugged her.
“33 years of waiting, countless nights of yearning, and finally a hand-drawn map from memory, this is the moment of perfect liberation after 13 days. Thanks to everyone who has helped me reunite with my family.” Li wrote on his Douyin profile before the meeting.
Li was abducted near the southwestern city of Zhaotong in Yunnan province in 1989 and later sold to a family who lived more than 1,800 kilometers away.
Now he lives in Canton province in southern China.
Memory and internet
After failing to ask her adoptive parents or query DNA databases about her origins, Li turned to the Internet.
“I am a child who is searching your home. A bald neighbor took me to Henan around 1989, when i had some 4 years“he said in the video, which was shared thousands of times.
“This is a map of the area of my home that I have memorized,” he said, holding up a rough sketch of the town, which included features such as a building he believed to be a school, a bamboo grove, and a small pond.
Child abductions are not uncommon in China, a society that highly values having a child.
Many children are kidnapped at a young age and sold to other families. In 2015, an estimated 20,000 children were abducted each year.
In 2021 there were numerous examples of young men reuniting with their biological fathers after long absences.
Another recent case occurred last July, when Guo Gangtang was reunited with her son 24 years after he was abducted in Shandong province.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.