A Chinese family has been reunited thanks to facial recognition software — 32 years after the boy was kidnapped and taken from his biological parents. Mao Yin was just two-year-old when he was abducted in 1988 outside a hotel in the city of Xi’an. His father left for a couple of minutes to get water and when he returned, Yin was gone.
According to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, he was sold to a childless couple for the equivalent of $845 in today’s money. Yin grew up in the neighboring province of Sichuan and went to college before setting up an interior design business.
A Mother’s Search
For 32 years, Yin’s birth parents searched for him, handing out more than 100,000 missing child fliers. Yin’s mother, Li Jingzhi, appeared on many Chinese television shows to raise awareness about missing children across the country, hoping her son may see one of the shows.
According to CCTV, Yin did see her on television talking about her missing son and was moved by her. But, he never realized that he was the little boy she was searching for.
In 2007, Jingzhi began volunteering at “Baby Come Home,” a platform that helps locate kidnapped children. During her search, she followed 300 possible leads, but none led them to her son. Still, she didn’t give up hope.
A Break in the Case
After 32 years, police in Xian got a tip last month that a man in Sichuan province bought a child from Shaanxi in the late-1980s. From there, police used facial recognition to analyze a picture of the boy. The technology allowed them to develop a simulated image of what he would look like as an adult.
The photo was compared to photos in a national database. That national database was created in 2009 to fight human trafficking in China and has helped locate more than 6,300 missing children.
Police conducted a series of investigations and comparisons, and were eventually able to track down a man in Mianyang who looked like the computerized image of Yin. No details were given about the process of how the photos were compared, but a DNA test later confirmed that Yin was the missing boy from 1988.
A Family Reunited
Yin’s mother received the news that her son was found on Mother’s Day.
“This is the best gift I have ever got on Mother’s Day,” she told CCTV.
Earlier this week, the family was reunited. Yin called out to his mother and ran toward her as the family hugged and cried. The entire reunion was captured during a live news conference broadcast by CCTV.
Li held her son tightly and said, “I don’t want him to leave me anymore. I won’t let him leave me anymore.”
It looks like she is going to get her wish. Yin, who owns a home decoration business in Sichuan, said he would move to Xi’an to live with his biological parents.
Yin’s abduction remains under investigation. Police have not released any information about his adoptive parents.