After being kidnapped in 1989 and sold in a child trafficking ring, a man in China was reunited with his family 33 years later with the help of TikTok and a hand-drawn map. Li Jingwei drew a rudimentary map of land features he remembered from his village as a child, memories of a 4 year old preserved for decades. After a video and his map went viral, police were able to match his drawing to a Yunnan village where a woman had lost her son 33 years ago.
Children being abducted and sold has been common in China due to their former one-child-per-family laws, and the boy was probably taken for a family who wanted a male child. He was sold to a family in Lankao nearly 1,800 kilometres away who he said took good care of him and raised him well. But after seeing high-profile cases of missing children being located and returned to their families years later, Li decided he should try to track down his birth parents as they were getting elderly and he feared they could pass away.
The family who had purchased him did not offer much help as to his birth family and DNA consultations provided little information as well. Finally, Li decided to try his chances with social media, uploading a video on Christmas Eve to Douyin, or, as it’s known outside of China, TikTok.
In the video, he said he was a child looking for his home and shared that he had little information to go on, but he did show the hand-drawn map that he had created to try to describe what he could remember from when he was 4 years old. As a child, he didn’t know the name of his village, or the street that he lived on, or any other details that could quickly identify his hometown. But his map featured physical landmarks like a pond, a bamboo forest, flowing water, trees, stones, and even things like cows and the local school.
Without a single proper name to go off of, the features of the village were enough for police who managed to identify the small village in Yunnan where a woman had reported her son missing 33 years earlier. He was first able to video call with his mother and commented that he recognized her immediately as they shared features like their teeth and lips. DNA testing confirmed that they were indeed mother and son.
Finally this weekend, they were able to meet in person, with Li writing on his Tik-Tok profile right before the meeting that after 33 years of waiting, ” this is the moment of perfect release.” When they met, he removed his mother’s mask and as they recognized each other, they hugged and cried together, reunited after three decades with the help of social media.
SOURCE: The Guardian