During the Chinese One Family, One Child policy, children were abducted to be sold to childless people or to the parents of girls who wanted a boy.
In 1988, a two-year-old child disappeared from a family from China – the boy’s parents were looking for him for 32 years, and finally found him . It turned out that he had been kidnapped, and a year later he was sold to a childless family 700 kilometers from his home.
At that time, China had a system of “One family – one child”, which was supposed to reduce the level of poverty due to population decline. Women were forbidden to give birth to more than one child under the threat of large fines and deprivation of benefits. At the same time, children often disappeared in the country – they were kidnapped, and then, for less than a thousand dollars, they were sold to families without children or to those who had a girl.
The two-year-old went missing in 1988 on the street when his father went to the store.
In 1985, a resident of the Chinese city of Xi’an Li Jingzhi and her husband had a son, Mao Yin. At that time, the country was allowed to have only one child, and the authorities made an exception only for villagers – they were allowed to have two children if a girl was born first.
The “One Family – One Child” demographic policy originated in China in the 1970s and lasted until 2016. For her violation, the family was fined and the second child was deprived of social benefits. Restrictions were introduced due to overpopulation in the country to reduce poverty.
The Jingzhi called Jia Jia’s son “great” because they wanted him to succeed in the future. The woman said that she was a happy mother: “Jia Jia was a very well-mannered, intelligent, obedient and reasonable child. He didn’t like crying. He was very lively and charming. He was one of those kids that everyone liked when they saw him. “
In 1988, when Mao Yin was two years and eight months old, Li Jingzhi went to work in another city for a few days, while her son stayed with his father. On the trip she received a telegram from her employer with a request to return home urgently: “The critical situation at home. Come back now. ” In Xi’an, a woman was informed that her son was missing.
I was devastated. I thought that perhaps my son was lost and could not find his way home, and that good people would find him and give him back to me.
Li Jingzhi’s husband told Li that while walking, he stopped at the hotel to ask the staff for water, leaving the child on the street for one or two minutes. When he returned, Mao Yin was gone.
Since then, the family began looking for the child: they interviewed people at the hotel, printed about 100,000 leaflets with his photograph, which they handed out and pasted at the railway and bus stations, and also posted an announcement about the missing son in the local newspaper. However, this did not help: “My heart ached. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I felt as if my heart was empty. “
According to the BBC, after the introduction of the policy of “One family – one child” in China, the number of kidnapping and trafficking in children has sharply increased. But in those years, Li Jingzhi did not know about it: “Sometimes there were ads on TV about missing children, but I never thought that they were kidnapped and sold. I just thought they were missing. “
Li Jingzhi’s relationship with her husband deteriorated: at first she blamed him for missing Mao Yin, but then let go of the thought, deciding that she needed to look for her son together. However, the family could no longer talk about anything other than their tragedy, so four years later they divorced.
Li Jingzhi continued to search – on weekends she went to nearby cities and provinces, and once it seemed that she was about to find her son. She learned of a married couple from Shaanxi City who had allegedly adopted Mao Lin. The woman visited hotels where they could stay, their rented apartment, several cities where relatives of these people lived. However, when she finally met the family, she realized that this was not her son – according to Li Jingzhi, by that time she had not eaten or slept for two days due to searches.
I was sure that this child was Jia Jia. I was very disappointed. This had a huge impact on me. After that, I continued to hear my son’s voice. My mom was worried that I was going to have a nervous breakdown.
According to the woman, she felt that she could “go crazy”, so she decided to start controlling her emotions: “If my child came back and saw a crazy mother, he would be very sorry.”
Li Jingzhi helped other parents find their missing children – 29 people were found with her all the time
Li Jingzhi teamed up with other parents in China who had lost their children. They sent each other leaflets with descriptions and photographs of the children, distributing them in their cities. 19 years after Mao Yin went missing, the woman volunteered for Baby Come Home to help families find children. According to Li Jingzhi, during the 20 years she has been helping parents in search, 29 children have been found with her help.
I didn’t feel lonely anymore. There were so many volunteers helping us find our children – I was very moved by this. I thought that even if my child was not found, I could help other children find their home.
In 2009, the Chinese government created a DNA database – parents of kidnapped children and the children themselves can enter their data into it if they suspect that they have been separated from their relatives. According to Jingzhi, most of the abducted are boys.
Jingzhi said that every time the family found their kidnapped child in front of her eyes, she asked herself, “Why isn’t this my son?” But she was happy for others: “Seeing that their child is returning to them, I hoped that one day my child will return to me.”
In 2015, the woman’s mother, who was dying, said that Mao Yin should return soon: “My mother passed away on January 15, 2015 lunar calendar – this is Jia Jia’s birthday. I felt that this was God’s way of reminding me not to forget the mother who gave birth to me and the son whom I gave birth to. “
On May 10, 2020, Li Jingzhi received a call from the Xi’an Public Security Bureau, saying that Mao Yin had been found. “I couldn’t believe it was real,” the woman said.
Mao Yin was found by the police using a photo face recognition system. An acquaintance told her to a woman – he told about a man who was brought from Xi’an to the neighboring province of Sichuan many years ago. A DNA test confirmed that the man in the photo was Li Jingzhi’s son.
Mao Yin, 34, is married and an interior designer. Li Jingzhi was afraid of meeting her son because she thought he would reject her: “I was very afraid that when I came to hug my son, he would not accept my hug. I felt that it would make me feel even more pain, that the son I was looking for for 32 years would not accept love and hugs. “
However, the woman’s fears did not materialize. During a meeting on May 18, Li Jingzhi, her ex-husband and Mao Yin met surrounded by the press – their son ran up to her with tears in his eyes, calling her “mom”: “This is how he ran to me when he was a child.”
It turned out that Mao Yin was sold to a childless family a year after his abduction for $ 840 at today’s rate. After the meeting, Li Jingzhi and his son continue to live in different cities, visiting each other and communicating via the Internet. According to the woman, Mao Yin does not remember anything that happened to him until he was four years old: “This is what makes my heart ache.”
Li Jingzhi said she will continue to help parents find their missing children. She expects the perpetrators of Mao Yin’s abduction to be punished.