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Children in China

5-year-old ‘Little Rock’ wins hearts in China as he raises funds for medical treatment

  • Boy with life-threatening kidney disorder gets a million views for live streams, and Buddha-like appearance has added to his popularity
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2018, 9:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 9:21am

A five-year-old boy from northeast China with a life-threatening kidney disorder has notched up a million followers on social media as he live-streams to raise money for his medical treatment.

Nicknamed “Little Rock”, the boy’s Buddha-like appearance has added to his popularity online, news website Thepaper.cn reported on Tuesday.

His parents regularly set up the live streams from their home in Changchun, Jilin province to raise funds and they draw an average of 1 million views.

Little Rock was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome – which has a range of symptoms caused by kidney damage – when he was 14 months old. As a result of his medication, the boy is only 1 metre tall and weighs almost 35kg, giving him a short and plump appearance.

He told the news website he had received huge support from his online fans.

“There are lots of aunties, uncles, brothers and sisters who care about me, and I can earn money for my medical fees,” Little Rock told the news website. “I want to make my own money and take the responsibility away from my parents. I believe that I can recover.”

Chinese farmer live-streaming from his remote village is an online hit

His family has already spent all their savings of 300,000 yuan (US$43,000) and sold their house to pay for the boy’s medical treatment, including an operation.

But his medical fees continue to put pressure on the family. His mother is a property manager and his father a manual labourer, and their combined income barely covers the boy’s health care and living costs, according to the report.

Although Little Rock’s condition has improved since he was first diagnosed with the syndrome, he has to take regular medication costing more than 7,000 yuan per month to avoid the risk of blood clots and acute kidney failure.

“If you’ve ever seen our child, you will understand why we will never be able to give him up,” the boy’s father told the news website.

He added that the child had suffered a lot over the years with the condition and the side effects of his medication, but he remained cheerful when he live-streamed.

The boy’s condition means he cannot attend kindergarten or live a normal life socialising with other children. But when his family uploaded a video of him at dinner last year, he won fans for his Buddha-like appearance, and he told the news website he felt like he had finally made some friends.

His parents have repeatedly urged Little Rock to give up live-streaming, fearing it would negatively affect his mental health, but the boy said he wanted to continue.

What it takes to be an internet live-streaming star in China

China’s booming live-streaming market attracts more than 300 million viewers. Although the most popular hosts are usually young, attractive women, more unconventional hosts such as farmers and young working-class men have found viral fame through the billion-dollar industry.