Mother Reunited With Son Who Was Abducted As Toddler Thanks To Facial Recognition Technology

by : Julia Banim on : 20 May 2020 10:40
ReunionReunionPear Video

A 60-year-old woman from China has been reunited with her son 32 years after he was abducted as a toddler, all thanks to facial recognition technology.


Mao Yin – nicknamed Jia Jia – was kidnapped in October 17, 1988, while he and his father Mao Zhenjing made their way home from nursery in the northwestern city of Xian in Shaanxi province.

The two-year-old had been thirsty, so they stopped in a hotel entrance for a drink. Mao Zhenjing looked away briefly while cooling down some hot water, and it was then that Mao Yin was taken.

ReunionReunionPear Video

Mao’s mother, Li Jingzhi, searched tirelessly for her son for more than three decades; quitting her job and distributing around 100,000 flyers across at least 10 provinces and municipalities.


As reported by the South China Morning Post, Li pursued 300 possible leads during this time, but to no avail. She even appeared on various TV shows, including The X Factor, in the hope that her son would be watching.

Li also dedicated time to volunteering with abduction NGO Baby Come Home, collecting information about missing children which she then passed to police. Thanks to Li’s hard work, 29 children have been reunited with family members.

ReunionReunionPear Video

According to state media platform CCTV, officers received a tip about a man in Sichuan Province in south-west China – an approximate 1,000km (620 miles) from Xian – who had adopted a baby years ago by paying 6,000 yuan (£690) to a human trafficker.

Xian police tracked down the adoptee, now a 34-year-old man renamed Gu Ningning, by using facial recognition technology to analyse old photographs of the missing boy.

Officers proceeded to conduct a DNA test to see if this man was indeed related to Mao Zhenjing and Li Jingzhi. Incredibly, the test came back positive and it was confirmed that this was the very same boy who went missing all those years ago.

Emotional footage has since been broadcast on CCTV that shows the family being reunited once more during a police press conference. The tearful parents could be seen hugging their long lost son, with Li saying, ‘I don’t want to be separated from him any more’.

You can watch the joyful reunion for yourself below:


Mao, who now runs a home decoration business, is reportedly ‘not sure’ about the future, but has stated that he wants to spend time with his biological parents.

Li was informed of this happy news on May 10, which marks Mother’s Day in China. She described being reunited with her son as being ‘the best gift I have ever got’.

The investigation into Mao’s disappearance remains ongoing, and authorities have not released information about his adoptive parents.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence regarding the welfare of a child, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, 8am–10pm Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm weekends. If you are a child seeking advice and support, call Childline for free on 0800 1111.

Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Life, abduction, China, Jia Jia, Mao Yin


South China Morning Post and 1 other
  1. South China Morning Post

    Chinese family reunited with kidnapped son after 32 years

  2. CCTV Video News Agency/YouTube

    Son Abducted 32 Years Ago Reunites with Parents