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Yin was kidnapped when he was a toddler. 32 years later, he's been reunited with his parents.

This week, with a swarm of media watching on, Mao Yin hugged his parents for the first time in 32 years.

The 34-year-old, from the central Chinese city of Xi’an, was at the centre of one of the country’s most infamous child abduction cases and the subject of a decades-long search spanning more than 10 provinces.

Mao had been raised by strangers, hundreds of kilometres from where he disappeared. Until police tracked him down last month, he hadn’t known his real name, his real family or his real story.

Watch: Mao Yin embraces his parents for the first time in decades. Post continues after video. 

Video by CCTV

The kidnapping.

Mao Yin was 2.5 years old when he vanished.

It was 1988. Mao and his father, Mao Zhenjing, were walking home from daycare, when the toddler asked for water. They stopped at the entrance of a hotel so his father could fetch some. Within a matter of minutes, the boy was snatched.

The kidnapping sparked nationwide search, involving 100,000 missing-person fliers and hundreds of false leads, The South China Morning Post reported.

Mao’s mother, Li Jingzhi, quit her job to dedicate herself to finding her boy and, in 2007, joined Baby Come Back Home, a volunteer organisation that helps track down missing children.

With her help, 29 parents and children have been reuinited, according to state media agency, Xinhua.

“Because, at that time, I had been searching for my son for over two decades, I knew how hard it could be. I also wondered if someone could give the same help to my son to find his family,” Li told The South China Morning Post.

Mao and his mother. Image: CCTV.
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The reunion.

As Li searched, her boy was living a shadow life over 600km away.

After Mao's abduction, he'd been sold to a childless couple in Sichuan Province for 6,000 yuan (equivalent to roughly $1,288 today).

Child trafficking for illegal adoption is an ongoing issue in China. While there are no official figures on the number of child victims, researchers estimate it to be in the tens of thousands every year.

Mao Yin was renamed Gu Ningning and raised without knowledge of his real parents, according to Chinese state media. He reportedly went to university and launched his own home decorating business.

But last month, a tip uncovered the truth.

Police received information about a man having purchased a child from Xi'an in the late '80s.

Using facial recognition technology and DNA testing, authorities managed to track down Mao and coordinated a reunion with his biological parents that was broadcast live on state television.

Mao burst through the door of the press conference, and ran into the open arms of his waiting mother and father.

All three sobbed as they embraced.

Li hugged her son tightly, as his father planted a gentle kiss on his forehead.

"I would like to thank the tens of thousands of people who helped us," Li told reporters.

"I don’t want him to leave me anymore," she said, gripping her son's hand. "I won’t let him leave me anymore."

Mao plans to move to Xi'an to live with his parents.

Investigations into his abduction are ongoing.

Feature image: CCTV.

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