Faint memory from village in China helps trafficked child reunite with family after 33: La Tribune India

Beijing, January 6

Since he was a child, Li Jingwei did not know his real name. He didn’t know where he was born, or for sure how old he was – until he reunited with his biological family last month using a map he had long remembered.

Li was a victim of child trafficking. In 1989, when he was 4 years old, a bald neighbor lured him in telling him that they would go see cars, which was rare in rural villages.

This was the last time he saw his house, Li said. The neighbor took him behind a hill to a road where three bicycles and four other kidnappers were waiting for him. He cried, but they put him on a bicycle and drove off.

“I wanted to go home but they wouldn’t allow it,” Li said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Two hours later I knew I wasn’t going home and must have met some bad people.”

He remembers being taken on a train. Eventually, it was sold to a family in another province, Henan.

“Because I was too young, only 4 years old, and hadn’t gone to school yet, I couldn’t remember anything, including the names” of his parents and his hometown, a- he declared.

However, the landscape of his village in Zhaotong City, southwestern Yunnan Province, was etched in his memory. He remembered the mountains, the bamboo forest, a pond next to his house, all the places he played.

After his kidnapping, Li said he drew maps of his village every day until he was 13 so he wouldn’t forget. Before he reached school age, he would draw them on the floor, and after entering school, he would draw them in notebooks. It has become an obsession, he says.

More than 30 years after his kidnapping, a meticulous drawing of the landscape in his village helped police locate him and find his birth mother and siblings.

He was inspired to search for his biological family after two reunions made headlines last year. In July, a Chinese father, Guo Gangtang, found his son after 24 years of searching, and in December, Sun Haiyang found his kidnapped son after 14 years.

Reports of child abductions occur regularly in China, although their frequency is unclear. The problem is compounded by restrictions which, until 2015, only allowed most urban couples to have one child.

Li decided to talk to his adoptive parents for clues and searched DNA databases, but nothing was done. Then he found volunteers who suggested he post a video of himself on Douyin, a social media platform, with the map he drew from memory.

It only took him 10 minutes to redraw what he drew hundreds, maybe thousands of times in his childhood, he said.

This post received tens of thousands of views. At that time, Li said the police had already restricted locations based on his DNA sample, and his hand-drawn map had helped the villagers identify a family.

Li eventually contacted his mother by phone. She asked about a scar on her chin which she said was caused by a fall from a ladder.

“When she mentioned the scar, I knew it was her,” Li said.

More details and memories fell into place, and a DNA test confirmed his legacy. In a touching reunion on New Year’s Day, he saw his mother for the first time since he was 4 years old.

As Li walked towards her, he collapsed to the floor in emotion. Lifted up by his younger brother and sister, he finally hugs his mother.

Li choked on talking about his father, who has passed away. Now a father of two teenage boys, Li said he would take his family to visit his father’s grave with all of his aunts and uncles during the Lunar New Year celebrations next month.

“It will be a real big meeting,” he said. “I want to tell her that her son is back.” PA


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