There is no bigger a crime than separating a mother from her child
Unfortunately, it's a crime that's way too common in modern China where an estimated 20,000 children are abducted each year. This is a story about one such abduction, albeit with a happy ending.
In the winter of 1994, Zou Qixiu had set up her small stall at a public square in the city of Shaoyang, in Central China's Hunan Province.
It was her daily routine, a usual practice.
However, by the time the day was through, Zou, who was 28 at the time, made a discovery so heartbreaking, it would go on to leave her devastated for life.
Her four-year-old son, Yuan Dan, was nowhere to be found. He was gone, abducted.
As days went by, Zou and her husband looked up and down the country for their son. Then the days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years, and years turned into decades.
The agony Zou and her husband experienced is something thousands of Chinese parents do every year, where 400 children are abducted a week, according to the US State Department.
As Martin Patience for the BBC reports, in Chinese culture where there is a traditional preference for boys as they carry on the family name and provide financial support, a baby boy in China can sell for up to USD16,000, double the price for a girl.
Once abducted, children are most often sold for adoption but some are forced to work as beggars for criminal gangs. While kidnapped teenage boys are sometimes sold into forced labour, teenage girls are forced into prostitution.
The vast majority of those abducted, however, are simply lost forever.
The couple wondered whether they would ever see their son again
Zou and her husband, both illiterate, had two more daughters and a second son, which greatly hampered their search efforts as they needed to take care of their newborns.
"My husband and I were not educated," Zou says. "We never went to school, so we could only go from street to street searching for our son."
However, her husband did not let this stop him from scaling China in search of Yuan. His desperate attempts to find the boy cost the grieving family more than just time.
After years of stress looking for his son, he succumbed to liver cancer in 2001, dying without ever having to found out what exactly happened to his son.
It wasn't until the beginning of this year that Zou was contacted by volunteers from Baobei Huijia, a leading missing-persons organisation, informing her that they may have found her son
According to Daily Mail, the organisation was, in fact, contacted by Yuan himself and provided his DNA samples, which were later matched with missing-persons reports filed by his mother.
Yuan, now 26 years of age, says he was sold by his abductors to a couple in China's Eastern Coastal Province of Fujian. "I remember clearly the moment I was taken by kidnappers."
He said that while he thought about looking for his parents in the past, he didn't want to hurt the feelings of his foster parents, who "treated me so well over the years."
However, Yuan changed his mind in 2014 when he had his own son and realised the anguish his mother must have been going through since his disappearance, and finally mustered up the courage to face the reality of his past.
The photographs below show the highly emotional reunion of Zou and her long-lost son for the first time in more than two decades
At one point the emotion was too much for the mother, who overcome with joy collapsed and had to be comforted by relatives
While it's not clear if the kidnappers were identified or if the foster parents will face charges, the successful reunion of Yuan and his mother is something that definitely puts a smile on everyone's faces