Tuesday 18 December 2018

Toddler who went missing reunited with family after 24 years

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Neil Connor

Wang Qifeng was just three years old when she inexplicably wandered away from her parents’ fruit stall by the side of the road in south-western China.

As soon as they noticed she had gone missing, Wang Mingqing and his wife Liu Chengying frantically shouted out her name, and desperately asked shoppers if they had seen their daughter.

They also spent weeks wandering around the neighbourhood until late in the evening, before returning home and crying at the sight of the young girl's clothes still hanging in her bedroom.

It would take another 24 years of stubborn searching - including Mr Wang becoming a taxi driver in the faint hope he would chance upon his daughter as a passenger - before they were finally reunited.

On Tuesday Mr Wang and Mrs Liu greeted their long-lost daughter, who is now called Kang Ying, at the airport in the city of Chengdu, where she went missing 24 years ago.

"From now on, Dad is here - you don't need to worry about anything - Dad will help you," Mr Wang said, after the family held a tearful embrace in front of local media.

Later, Mrs Kang, weeping, told reporters: "The whole world told me I didn't have a mother - but I do!".

Mrs Kang had wandered off when her parents were serving customers at their family fruit stall by a roadside in Chengdu in 1994.

After their initial frantic hunt the parents put their search on hold. The couple eventually had a second child, but they never gave up looking for Mrs Kang.

They contacted local welfare authorities and websites which are set up in China to help parents be reunited with offspring who have gone missing.

Mr Wang was contacted by several women who believed they may be his daughter, but DNA tests ruled them out.

In 2015 Mr Wang decided to become a taxi driver for ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing, hoping his new vocation might help him achieve his dream of finding his daughter.

He told the China Daily: "I have received 4,839 requests for rides since I became a Didi driver. In the past two years, I have always been waiting for one passenger - my missing daughter."

Mr Wang handed out thousands of cards with his daughter's details and photo, and begged customers to share information about the girl on messaging app Wechat.

It was not until a police sketch artist volunteered to help the search after seeing Mr Wang’s fruitless campaigns. A sketch of what his daughter might have looked like as an adult was circulated widely online.

The sketch finally made it thousands of miles across the country to where Mrs Kang was living with her husband and children.  Mrs Kang was said to have been shocked by the likeness.

When she got in touch with the authorities she learned that other unlikely details matched, including a small scar on her head.

She was living the other side of China, in the north-eastern Jilin province, when she reached out to Mr Wang, and a DNA test on Sunday confirmed that she was the missing daughter.

"I can't tell you how much hope, disappointment and despair we have gone through these past 24 years. Now we can finally meet again," Mr Wang was quoted as saying in the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper.

There are no official figures about how many children go missing in China each year, although some media have speculated that as many as 200,000 have been separated from their parents at a young age.

Up to 20,000 Chinese children are thought to be trafficked each year, state media said, while China is thought to have up to 1.5 million homeless children.


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