One of China’s best-known missing persons cases has been solved this week after more than three decades. A 2-year-old boy who was snatched from his father in a hotel in 1988 has recently been found in good health. The police announced this yesterday at a press conference, where Mao Yin, now 34, was reunited with his parents.
Mao Yin was kidnapped on October 17, 1988, at the age of 2 when his father stopped at a hotel on the way to get him drinks. While fetching water, the father lost sight of his son, and an unknown person took the toddler at the entrance of the hotel. The father was still chasing, but could no longer trace the kidnapper.
The family launched an extensive search in and around the Chinese city of Xian. The mother even gave up her job to search for her son full-time. She distributed a hundred thousand leaflets in more than ten provinces and municipalities, but without success. At one point, she thought she had found her son, but it turned out to be another child.
Over the years, Mao Yin’s mother grew into a well-known figure. She has appeared in numerous Chinese television shows to draw attention to the missing person, including The X Factor.
She said she followed three hundred tracks and directions, but all of them led to nothing. To help other parents search for their missing children, she joined a charity in 2007.
According to Chinese media, she managed to reunite 29 children with their parents, but her son remained untraceable all along. For years, the investigation was halted until a reliable tip came to police last month about a man from Sichuan Province in southwest China – about 1,000 kilometers from Xian – who had adopted a baby years ago. He thought the child might have been Mao Yin.
Police tracked down the adopted, now 34-year-old man. A DNA test had to show whether he was indeed related to the parents. The test was positive. Mao Yin – now called Gu Ningning – is said to have been sold to a childless couple for about $1000 as a baby. “This is the best gift I have ever received,” said his mother. “I want to thank the tens of thousands of people who helped us.”
Mao is still thinking about what to do with his new future, but he is determined to spend as much time with his parents as possible. It is not clear whether the kidnapper and the couple who bought him have been arrested.
Kidnappings in China
Kidnapping and trafficking of babies have been a major problem in China for decades. No official figures are known, but on the website of the respected missing platform, Baby Come Back Home, there are 14,893 cases of missing boys and girls.
In 2015, an estimated 20,000 children were kidnapped each year in China, the BBC reports. In 2009, the Chinese ministry set up a DNA database that helped find more than 6,000 missing children.
Chinese children rescued by the police after their kidnapping has been able to be adopted since 2015. This measure should prevent young people from being left in reception centers after their rescue.
Adopted parents must promise to give the youngsters back if the biological parents turn up after all, although an exception can be made if it turns out that parents have sold their children themselves.