The extraordinary story of a married Chinese couple reuniting with their daughter nearly 24 years after she went missing has captured the hearts of millions across China.
Wang Mingqing and his wife Liu Dengying’s daughter disappeared in the winter of 1994, when the couple was selling fruit in the city of Chengdu on a particularly busy day.
Wang went to go look for change for a customer at a nearby stall when their daughter walked away, according to local media.
“At first, we thought our daughter was being naughty, then when we finished scouring every corner of Jiuyan bridge, we realized she went missing,” Liu told the Chengdu Huaxi City Daily.
“After that, we stopped doing business and went to every orphanage in Chengdu but had no luck. I was walking and my husband was biking and like this it went on for half a year. It’s like trying to pick a needle from the sea.”
Wang and Liu’s tireless search – which saw Wang become a ride-sharing driver and the family handing out more than 10,000 leaflets about their daughter – finally paid off this week, when he and Liu met their daughter, who they named Qifeng but was renamed Kang Ying by her adoptive parents.
Kang Ying, now in her late twenties, traveled with her husband and children to Chengdu Tuesday, where she was greeted by her long-lost family and a large media scrum.
The family cried and as Wang and Kang embraced, with Kang telling his daughter, “daddy loves you.”
Wang and his wife spent years searching for his daughter after she went missing, handing out flyers, posting appeals on the internet and taking out advertisements in newspapers to raise awareness of their case, according to state-run CCTV.
Driving for Qifeng
They didn’t have a photograph of young Qifeng, so instead they used a photograph of one of their other daughters because the two looked similar.
Years went by, and the family refused to leave Chengdu in the hopes that one day their daughter would come back to them.
In 2015, Wang decided to drive for the ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing to get their case more attention – or on the extremely off chance that one day, his daughter might be a customer, China’s state-run Xinhua news reported.
Chinese media caught onto the unique tactic at the time and covered the case.
“One day, my daughter may just be the person sitting in my car,” Wang told the local newspaper.
Luckily for him, a police sketch artist saw the story and volunteered to help by drawing an image of what the girl might look like as an adult this year. That image made its way to Kang Ying.
Now a married woman with children of her own living in Jilin, thousands of miles away from Chengdu, Kang was stunned by how much the woman resembled her. Her parents said she was adopted off the side of the road in Chengdu, so the clues added up. Kang grew up just miles away.
She got in touch with Wang on WeChat, a popular Chinese messaging app, and found that she shared a key trait with his daughter – a small scar on her forehead. After they spoke, Kang agreed to take a DNA test, and it was a match.
While the case has warmed hearts, it’s also raising awareness of the issue of child trafficking throughout China, with some trying to cash in by selling babies who end up adopted in China or abroad.
Last year, the US State Department named China as one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to human trafficking, a decision met with harsh condemnation in Beijing.
Josh Berlinger reported and wrote from Hong Kong, Jemima Barr reported from Beijing. CNN’s Serenitie Wang contributed to this report.