Help pours in for Chinese student who lived on 30 cents a day

  • Published
Wu Huayan on her hospital bedImage source, Feng Video
Image caption,
Wu Huayan ate only rice and chillies in order to save money to help her ill brother

Well-wishers have donated almost a million yuan to a Chinese student who was hospitalised after living on 2 yuan ($0.30, £0.20) a day for five years.

The case of Wu Huayan shocked Chinese people after it hit the headlines earlier this week.

The 24-year old woman became seriously malnourished while struggling to study and support her sick brother.

Ms Wu's story also sparked anger at authorities for failing to recognise her plight and help her much earlier.

After the story was reported, donations began pouring in for the college student in the city of Guiyang - reportedly totalling some 800,000 yuan ($114,000, £88,000).

What is Wu Huayan's story?

Earlier, this month, the young woman went into hospital after having difficulty breathing, according to Chinese media.

She was only 135cm (4ft 5ins) tall, weighing barely more than 20kg (43 pounds; three stones).

The doctors found she was suffering from heart and kidney problems due to five years spent eating minimal amounts of food. She said she needed to save money to support her sick brother.

Wu Huayan lost her mother when she was four and her father died when she was in school.

She and her brother were then supported by their grandmother, and later by an uncle and aunt who could only support them with 300 yuan ($42, £32) each month.

Most of that money went on the medical bills of her younger brother, who had mental health problems.

This meant Ms Wu spent only 2 yuan a day on herself, surviving largely off chillies and rice.

The siblings are from Guizhou, one of the poorest provinces in China.

Media caption,

China's uphill struggle fighting extreme poverty

What has the reaction been?

The case sparked an outpouring of concern - and anger at authorities.

Many people on social media said they wanted to help with donations, and many voiced concern about her college not helping her.

One user called her situation "worse than that of refugees in Afghanistan", while another pointed to the extravagant cost of China's 70th anniversary celebrations, saying the money could have been better spent.

Others expressed their admiration at her efforts to help her brother, while also persevering with her studies in college.

Aside from the donations on crowd funding platforms, her teachers and classmates donated 40,000 yuan ($5,700; £4,400), while local villagers collected 30,000 yuan to help her.

Officials released a statement saying Ms Wu had been receiving the minimum government subsidy - thought to be between 300 and 700 yuan a month - and was now getting an emergency relief fund of 20,000 yuan.

"We will keep following the case of this strong-minded and kind girl," the Tongren City Civil Affairs Bureau said.

"We will actively co-operate with other relevant departments to solve the problem according to the minimum living standard and temporary assistance responsibility that the civil affairs department bears."

How bad is poverty in China?

The case of Wu Huayan has echoes of a story from 2018 when a Chinese boy arrived at school with his hair full of frozen ice.

Dubbed "Little Wang", his story also went viral, leading to international donations from people impressed by his resilience, and shocked at his poverty.

Image source, People's Daily

While China's economy has skyrocketed over the past decades, poverty has not disappeared, and inequality has grown.

One major reason cited is the huge divide between rural and urban areas.

As a point of comparison, in rural region of Guizhou where Ms Wu lives, that figure is around 16,703 yuan.

China has moved from being "moderately unequal in 1990 to being one of the world's most unequal countries," according to a 2018 report by the International Monetary Fund.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics in 2017, 30.46 million rural people were still living below the national poverty line of $1.90 a day.

China has previously pledged to "eliminate" poverty by 2020.