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Man kidnapped as a boy wanted to find his mom, all he had was a hand-drawn map of his home

'33 years of waiting, this is the moment of perfect release,' the man sighed.

Man kidnapped as a boy wanted to find his mom, all he had was a hand-drawn map of his home
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Jeshoots

Child trafficking is a significant issue in China, with many blaming the one-child policy for an increase in child abductions, particularly of boys, Quartz reported. According to a GSI report, around 10,000 children are trafficked each year in China for illegal adoption, labor, begging, and other malicious purposes. Every day, headlines emerge about children reuniting with their biological families. One such story is that of Li Jingwei, reported by CBS News, whose journey to find his family highlights the power of memory.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Cottonbro
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Cottonbro

Li was abducted when he was four years old. In 1989, a bald neighbor lured him away and took him behind a hill where other kidnappers were waiting. Despite his screams, they stowed him on a bike and that was it. He never saw his home again. He spent more than three decades trying to locate his beloved family. In the end, his memory and imagination came to his rescue.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

Li, who worked in Guangdong Province, knew that he had been kidnapped as a child, but he no longer remembered the names of his original parents. On December 24, 2020, he posted a video on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, showing a map he had drawn from a memory of his childhood home. The hand-drawn map included scribbles of the features he remembered such as a building he believed to be a school, a bamboo forest, and a small pond. “I’m a child who’s finding his home. I was taken to Henan by a bald neighbor around 1989 when I was about four years old,” he said in the video, per VICE. “This is a map of my home area that I have drawn from memory,” he added.


He was inspired to continue his search after seeing other reunions that popped up in the news. He mentioned the case of Guo Gangtang, a Chinese father who reunited with his son after 24 years, and Sun Haiyang, who reunited with his son after 14 years. “Seeing Sun Haiyang and Guo Gangtang successfully reunited with their families, I also hope to find my own birth parents, return home, and reunite with my family,” Li told the local media. Soon enough, he was able to narrow down his search to Zhaotong, a mountainous city in Yunnan, with the assistance of his map and the authorities.

When he was 37 years old in 2021, Li’s story quickly spread on social media, attracting the attention of the Ministry of Public Security, which got involved in the investigation, as CNN reported. Within a few days, a woman in Yunnan was located who could be his biological mother. A video call was connected between Li and the woman.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Shvetsa
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Shvetsa

In the phone call, the woman accurately described a scar on his chin, recalling that he had fallen off a ladder as a toddler. Following this clue, DNA tests were carried out. Finally, on December 28, the Douyin account of the country's Public Security Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking Office confirmed that the two were related. The two were reunited.

“Thirty-three years of waiting, countless nights of yearning, and finally a map hand-drawn from memory, this is the moment of perfect release after 13 days,” Li wrote on his Douyin profile. “Thank you, everyone who has helped me reunite with my family.” When speaking about his father who was no longer alive, Li’s eyes were welling with tears. He said that he’d now take responsibility for the two teenage children in his house. "It's going to be a real big reunion," he said. "I want to tell him that his son is back."


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