A woman who made millions out of coal mining investments is now hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt after she spent her fortune adopting 75 orphans.
Li Lijuan has spent the past 19 years using the money she made from her investments in the 1980s to house the abandoned children.
The former garment business owner from Wu’an County, China, adopted her first orphan in 1994 and went on to adopt dozens more who either lost their parents or were abandoned because of illness or disabilities.
The 46-year-old lost her entire life savings when the coal mine she invested in shut down and she was no longer able to meet the costs of her large family.
She is now some £200,000 in debt – but it hasn’t stopped her raising her adopted children. Lijuan has taken to selling her properties as well as other valuables she possessed.
While volunteers have stepped forward give Lijuan’s foster children new homes, strict adoption laws in China mean the former millionaire has no choice but to refuse their offers.
All of her foster children are registered under her name and were never formally declared orphans, meaning they cannot be adopted by other families under strict Chinese laws.
Lijuan also receives donations from charities, but the cost of raising her children, many of whom require extensive operations for disabilities and other birth defects, far outweighs the money she receives.
Lijuan’s financial woes took another turn in 2011 after she was diagnosed with early-stage lymphoma, for which she spent a week in hospital receiving treatment.
She continues to maintain that she could have used the medical expenses of her treatment on the children, who see her as their mother. Some of the children she’s helped have gone on to attain university degrees and find work as public servants.
Ironically, Lijuan has not seen her biological son, Xiaowen, in over 10 years. Xiaowen suffered a serious spinal injury in 2004 and had to undergo surgery, but Lijuan was not able to be by his side because she was taking one of her foster children to another hospital for a follow-up operation.
Feeling neglected by his own mother, Xiaowen was overcome with depression and refused to see Lijuan again. He now lives with his grandmother.