Chinese street cleaner who found US$22,000 in rubbish refuses to accept any reward for honesty

Low-paid worker was offered a year’s salary for returning the cash, but turned down the offer saying she was only doing ‘what I should do’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 4:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 10:44pm

A Chinese street cleaner who returned nearly 150,000 yuan (US$22,000) she found in the rubbish has refused to accept a reward for her honesty, saying there was no need to thank her for doing the right thing.

Li Man discovered the bag on Tuesday morning as she was cleaning a road in a commercial district of Haikou, the capital of the island province of Hainan.

The bag drew her attention because of its weight, Li told local media. When she opened it, she found a smaller bag filled with 100 yuan bills.

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“Someone must have accidentally dropped it here and must be very worried right now. I needed to make sure this was returned quickly,” Li told Haikou TV.

After contacting her manager, Li took the bag to the local police station.

Police launched an investigation based on a stack of receipts found alongside the cash and located the owner, a businessman surnamed Zhu.

Within two hours of Li finding the bag, the money had been returned to Zhu at the police station.

He identified himself as the head of a local company and said the cash was a day’s takings that a cleaner had mistaken for rubbish and thrown away, local media said.

At the station, Zhu was filmed offering Li a 20,000 yuan reward for her good deed, a sum that represents a typical year’s salary.

But Li politely refused the offer, telling Hainan News: “It’s what I should do, there’s no need.”

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Li is being hailed in social media as “the beautiful sanitation worker” and “a noble character”.

In an interview with Haikou TV, she said: “Although my conditions are a bit hard, it's important to have good morals. Returning the money was the right thing to do.”

The story has also sparked an online debate about the low wages street cleaners receive.

In Haikou, the minimum wage of 1,430 yuan a month is one of the lowest in the country.

Workers paid a yearly salary of 20,000 yuan are making less than half the province’s average salary of 45,540 yuan.