China’s former one-child policy led to thousands of child abductions over the past few decades.
Since sons were considered more valuable to many rural families than daughters, young boys were often abducted and sold to other families. Girls were then put up for adoption. Li Jingwei was one of the unfortunate children to be ripped from his loving family 33 years ago.
Li was just 4 years old when he was stolen from his home in the southwestern Yunnan province in 1988. He was transported more than 124 miles away to the Hunan province, where he was sold to another family. He may have grown up surrounded by strangers, but he never forgot where he came from!
As a child, Li recalls sketching out a map of his home village almost daily. He couldn’t remember his original name, the names of his parents, or the name of his village, but he could recall the rivers, rice paddies, bamboo forests, and roads that wound through the countryside.
At the time, drawing the map brought him comfort when he was homesick. He had no idea that decades later, it would lead him home.
Li is now an adult with a family of his own, but he could never get over the lingering sadness of losing his birth family. He saw that state media outlets, police departments, and social media had helped other people in his shoes reunite with their long-lost loved ones in recent years, so he decided to try his luck as well. He sat down and drew the map from memory one more time.
“So many years have passed, I don’t know if anyone in my family is looking for me,” Li said in a video. “I want to be able to see my parents again while they are still here.”
Social media took Li’s map and ran with it! China’s Ministry of Public Security stepped in to help, and in time, they found a woman in the city of Zhaotong who had lost a child around the time Li went missing. They did a DNA test to confirm their suspicions, and it was indeed Li’s birth mother!
Li was eager to see his mother, so they shared a video call as soon as the DNA was confirmed. He recognized her the moment he saw her! “My mother and I have the same lips, even my teeth,” he said.
A few days later, the pair met up at a police station in Henan. A video of their reunion is gut-wrenching, yet incredibly moving. Li rushes into his mother’s arms, and the two begin to cry loudly as other family and friends surround them.
“I’ve finally found my baby,” Li’s mother says.
Both expressed their gratitude to the social media users and government organizations that made their reunion possible after all this time.
Isn’t it incredible that Li was able to remember his village in such detail? Thirty-three years is a long time, but those early, loving memories of home never faded.
Watch their moving reunion in the video below, and share this story to celebrate Li’s map leading him home.
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