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.
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.