A 46-year-old former millionaire from Hebei who took in 75 abandoned children and was diagnosed with cancer four years ago is now facing up to two million yuan in debt.
Li Li Juan from Wu’an, Hebei, became a millionaire in the 1980s thanks to a successful garment business she ran. Over the past 19 years, she has adopted 75 abandoned children, most of whom were left by their own families because of sickness and disabilities, and others who lost parents due to coal mine disasters or other tragedies.
In the early years, Li was able to use her profits from investments in iron ore mining as well as her savings from the garment business to raise the adopted children. However, in 2008, the mine was shut down due to urban developments, which cut off Li’s major source of income. Li started selling her properties and valuables in order to support the children.
In the winter of 2011, Li was diagnosed with early stage lymphoma (lymphatic cancer). She spent seven days in the hospital before returning home. She said it cost too much to treat her illness and that she’d rather spend the same amount of money on the children.
Considering the growing number of adopted children at Li’s home, it was not long before money began to fall short. Since 2011, the monthly cost of running the “adoption home” has exceeded Li’s income. Though there’s been some help from Li’s relatives and friends, as well as donations from charities, the amount is not sufficient to maintain the high cost. Currently, the debts have piled up to more than two million yuan.
Despite being the “mother” of 75 kids, Li’s own son, Xiao Wen, has refused to see her for the past 10 years.
In 2004, Xiao Wen suffered a serious spinal injury and had to undergo surgery, Li could not be there for him, as she was taking an adopted child suffering from hydrocephalus to Shanghai for his second operation. When Xiao Wen was released from the hospital, he became severely depressed and refused to see his own mother. Later on, Xiao Wen underwent therapy and was taken in by his grandmother. Even after all these years, the relationship between the two remains strained. Li said that it was because of her son that she began adopting orphans and abandoned children.
Li Jing Wen, a representative from the Wu’An Civil Affairs Department, said that the adoption of children must be carried out through Social Welfare Centers. Though Li Li Juan’s kindness in setting up a ‘charity village’ is to be appreciated, it is still a citizen-established non-corporal organization and does not conform to the law, according Li.
Currently, due to the limitations of the law, Li’s 75 adopted children are no longer considered ‘orphans’ as they are registered under her name. Therefore, despite receiving generous offers from others looking to adopt these children, she had no choice but to refuse them. At the same time, spaces and the funding for running the “charity village” have become increasingly limited with the continuously growing number of adopted children.
By Crystal Lau
[Images via news.163.com and ]