Dying of Hunger in China

Wu Huayan, thin and shrunken from malnutrition, sitting on the hospital bed.

“Chairmen of Everything”  Xi Jinping claimed “poverty” would disappear by 2020. Here it is 2020, and here is Wu Huayan, a young student who suffered from severe “malnutrition” who died on January 12, 2020 at the Affiliated Hospital of Guizhou Medical University in the city of Guiyang in eastern Guizhou province.

This picture tells a story. It does not show a child, but a 24-year-old young woman. When the photograph was taken, the third-year college student was just 4ft 5in feet tall and weighed 48 pounds when she was admitted to the hospital.

Wu did not always look like this. She was a normal young girl and a student at ”Guizhou Forerunner College.” She managed to make it through high school and continued on to college, where she got a stipend.

Orphaned by the time she was 18, her father died that year, and her mother died when she was 4, Wu and her younger brother were then supported by their grandmother, and later by an uncle and aunt who were also scraping by and could only provide 300 yuan each month. Most of that money went on the medical bills of her younger brother who had mental health problems.

Guizhou Forerunner College student Wu Huayan, 24, died of heart failure.

Ms Wu turned to the media for help after watching her father and grandmother die because they had no money to pay for treatment. “My grandma and dad both died because they didn’t have money for treatment,” Wu said after she sought funds for her own hospitalization due to malnutrition. “I don’t want to experience that, to wait for death because of poverty,” she said.

Caring for herself, her studies, and the psychiatric treatments for her mentally ill brother, she had to survive with a “social security” allowance of a mere 300 yuan ($43.50) per month. That’s about $1.45 per day, while China’s poverty line is $1.90 per day.

She did not want to stop studying, and would do everything to “pay” for her younger brother’s medical treatment. So, she started “skipping” breakfast, then dinner, and in the end tried to “survive” on just 2 yuan ($0.29) per day on a “single” daily meal she cooked for herself of “rice, chili peppers, and plain steamed buns.”

She “ate this way” for five years, from high school on. Her “sacrifice” took its toll, and last fall she put out a public appeal for “funds” after she herself was admitted to the hospital in October with trouble “walking and breathing.” Severely “malnourished,” Doctors said that her eyebrows and 50% of her hair had fallen out.

Wu was diagnosed with “kidney and heart” problems, including a deteriorated valve. Doctors said surgery to correct it would cost more than 200,000 yuan, or about $29,000. Wu’s plight captured worldwide attention and shone a light on what many called the shortfalls of China’s attempts to “provide for its people.”

Doctors said that the third-year university student was suffering as a result of five years spent “eating” minimal amounts of food. Wu’s health continued to “decline” throughout November and December, and she eventually “passed” away at the Affiliated Hospital of Guizhou Medical University in the city of Tongren, a spokesman for the hospital confirmed. A cause of death was not provided.

Wu Huayan’s case prompted an “outpouring of anger” towards authorities, with many on social media questioning why “not more had been done” to help the siblings. Others expressed admiration for her efforts to help her brother while also persevering with her studies.

She launched an appeal on “Shuidichou” an online crowd funding site, asking for help to cover her medical bills. Chinese Communist Party “charities” intervened, and some $140,000 were collected. Her teachers and classmates donated 40,000 yuan, while local villagers collected 30,000 yuan to help her.

Wu, however, died before it was revealed that most of this “money” never reached her, generating a public outcry about the “corruption” of CCP run “charities.”

The university student’s death sparked “furious viral discussion” on Chinese social media amid mounting suspicion that “donated funds” had been misappropriated.

Angry Chinese social media users demanded answers after news circulated that a university student who spent less than a dollar a day on food had died despite raising thousands of dollars in donations.

Last year over one million yuan ($145,000) was raised after a report on Wu’s malnutrition caught the attention of online users. But she received just 20,000 yuan ($3,000) for her own medical treatment last November, according to the charity that organized Wu’s “crowd funding” campaign.

She and her family “wanted to save the remaining money for surgery and rehabilitation treatment,” explained the “China Charities Aid Foundation for Children” (CCAFC) in an online statement on Wu’s death. “The future use of the donations will be explained to the public in a timely matter,” they added.

But Chinese online users were not convinced. “Those who embezzled the money should die,” said one angry user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform. “Never trust those garbage charity organizations,” wrote another. CCAFC did not respond to requests for comment.

The tragic death of Wu Huayan highlights how angry ordinary Chinese get when faced with any hint of “misappropriation” of funds, as the “rich-poor divide” widens in a country where “corruption is pervasive at every level of society.”

Past scandals have also fueled deep-seated “suspicion” of charities. In 2011, the “Red Cross Society of China” found itself embroiled in “corruption” allegations, after a young Chinese woman with links to the organization “flaunted her wealth” online.

The anger around Wu’s case also comes as Chinese people donate an increasing amount of money to “philanthropic” organizations in the country. In 2018, Chinese people “donated” over 3.17 billion Chinese yuan to “online charity” platforms, a 27% jump from the year prior, according to official news agency Xinhua.

This, however, is only part of the problem. On December 2019, CCP propaganda was still telling the world that President Xi Jinping’s plan to end poverty in 2020 was about to be accomplished.

The death of Wu Huayan is a “sad” yet timely reminder that “propaganda” should not be confused with “reality.”

The “horrific” story of Wu Huayan will remind many Western readers of the “tales of miserable children” in Victorian England by Charles Dickens (1812–1870). And for a good reason.

China is, in many respects, similar to England during the “Industrial Revolution,” where the “rich lived a luxurious life,” commerce flourished, the country was a “global” power, yet the “orphans and the poor” died of hunger in the streets and the hospitals. Industrial development came without “relief for the poor.”

Karl Marx (1818–1883) lived in London and saw the same situation Dickens described. Marx was able to criticize it, but didn’t really do anything to solve the problem. In fact, “poverty” was eventually alleviated in England, not through Marxist “revolution” but through the efforts of social reformers, most of them motivated by “religion and Christianity.”

By cracking down on “religion,” Xi Jinping deprives the “poor” of their best friend and help. His “fake news” is not solving the social “tragedies” of China, and people like Wu Huayan continue “starving and dying.”

“It is hard to imagine that some people still do not have access to proper food even though it is already 2020,” one user posted on the Chinese social media site “Weibo.”

The siblings hailed from Guizhou, one of the “poorest” provinces in China, and the case has shown a spotlight on “poverty” in China.

While China’s economy has “boomed” over the past few decades, poverty has not “disappeared,” with the National Bureau of Statistics saying that in 2017 there were 30.46 million rural people still living below the national poverty line of $1.90 a day.

Inequality has also grown, with a 2018 report from the “International Monetary Fund” saying China was now “one of the world’s most unequal countries”.

China has previously pledged to “eliminate” poverty by 2020. Earlier this month, Jiangsu province said only 17 people out of its more than 80 million population were living in poverty.

Obviously, these figures are a “false” distortion based on China’s “poverty” records.

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Filed under chinese culture, workplace insights

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