Austin Ramzy at TIME has the remarkable story of Zhou Chengliang, who was finally reunited with his family after being kidnapped in 1988, thanks to online efforts to link victims of kidnapping with their relatives.
More than two decades had passed since that October 1988 day when their son was taken by two strangers. In that time memories had faded and clues disappeared, but other lines of inquiry had emerged. “We felt that technology had become so developed that we should see what happened if we put something online,” says Zhou’s older brother, Zhou Yong.
The results were stunning. Within three hours of posting the information online, the Zhous were contacted by a volunteer from Baby Come Home, a website that helps reunite families with missing loved ones.
His last name was now Huang, and he was no longer the terrified 6-year-old Zhou Yong had last seen being led away by a stranger, but a grown man with a job, a wife and a daughter who was seeking the family he had lost so long ago.
The [kidnappers] separated Zhou Yong from his brother, then took the younger boy on a multiday bus, train and boat trip to coastal China, where he was sold to a family in Fujian province. His life there was difficult at first. He was treated poorly and given less food than the family’s own children. The family told him that his life would have been even worse had they not bought him.
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