Taking a page from the heart-warming story of the San Francisco "Batkid" Miles Scott, government officials, policemen and volunteers in the southern Chinese city of Xinyu came together to help a wheelchair-bound nine-year-old realise his dream of becoming a crime-fighting hero.
In an elaborate "hostage rescue" drama meticulously played out by real policemen and volunteers on Saturday, nine-year-old Zou Junyi, dressed in full police uniform, negotiated with hostage-takers in his wheelchair at a local shopping mall when his partner, a female police officer, overpowered two dagger-wielding villains and rescued three hostages.
Passersby let out an explosion of cheers for the little boy, who was paralysed with muscular dystrophy, as an electronic billboard nearby flashed the words “Junyi, you are an excellent police officer!”
Yan Wenjing, the mayor of Xinyu, Jiangxi province, then showed up at the scene and presented a medal to the boy.
Junyi has been battling the rare disease for three years, which left him wheelchair-bound and his family financially-strained, state media reported. The city’s authorities decided to put on a show to help Junyi realise his dream after the local government’s official Weibo account reported his case late last year.
The decision had drawn an outpouring of support from netizens and the authorities eventually selected five volunteers out of the nearly 300 people who offered to help in an online campaign.
After the successful rescue of the "hostages," the boy was also invited on a day tour with the city’s police force. He watched training sessions of police officers and SWAT teams, and helped direct traffic as a traffic cop during the day, Xinhua reported.
“When my legs get better, I want to be a police officer. It’s good to be a police officer because they can arrest bad guys,” Junyi was reported as saying. The fourth-grader has been studying hard despite the disease, according to Xinhua.
“I was happy that day,” Junyi told the South China Morning Post in a telephone phone interview from his home in Xinyu on Monday. “The most exciting part was I got to be a riot police officer!”
Junyi’s mother, Chen Qingmei, told the Post that she would bring her son to a hospital in Beijing in a few days to continue his treatment.
With a combined monthly income of around 5,000 yuan (HK$6,413), Chen and her husband had spent about 600,000 yuan (HK$769,504) on treatment for their son, Xinhua reported. Chen estimated that the upcoming treatment would cost hundreds of thousands more.
“But the hospital has said they would try their best to keep the medical expenses down,” she said.
Chen said people across the country were offering help to her son and a Chinese woman living in Korea had already donated 5,000 yuan.
Junyi said in the interview that his next dream was to recover from the disease.
“And my third dream is to get a doctorate degree,” he said.
In November, the US city of San Francisco spent more than US$100,000 to help a leukaemia-stricken boy, 5-year-old Miles Scott, live out his superhero dream by performing heroic acts across the city dressed as Batman.