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Limbless father deals with fame and cynicism

China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-16 09:46
Yuan Lidong eats with his mouth in Jinzhou, Northeast China's Liaoning province, on Jan 2, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

SHENYANG - With a short chopstick held between his lips, Yuan Lidong maneuvered it to use his smartphone.

Yuan was born with no limbs in the rural area of Jinzhou in Northeast China's Liaoning province.

The 34-year-old moves with his waist by leaning on a short but heavy crutch, and wears modified pants so he can lift himself up to a sitting position.

Under the screen name "Brother Chopstick", Yuan does livestreams of his daily life on his smartphone, drawing 420,000 followers on the Chinese short-video and livestreaming platform Kuaishou.

"You can talk about any topic. Just treat me like an ordinary person," he said to the screen, smiling.

His family was devastated when Yuan was born. "He looked like a meatball," recalled Yuan Fengxiang, his father.

The family tried to raise him like a normal child and sent him to school, but the physical difficulty forced him to quit after three and a half years. When Yuan Lidong was 14 years old, his father took him across the country to beg for money. To earn more money, he sang through a loudspeaker.

In 2008, he met his wife, Chai Panxia. She had often come to hear him sing and fell in love with him.

"I like his voice. He is also optimistic, easygoing and caring," Chai said.

Chai's parents did not give their blessings to the couple and refused to attend the wedding. The following year, their son was born.

"Upon hearing that the baby was healthy, I was so thrilled that I fell off a high platform outside the delivery room," Yuan Lidong said. "I couldn't wait to see his tiny arms and legs."

Their newborn son also changed the attitudes of Chai's parents who often request their grandson visits them.

Yuan Lidong is reluctant to say much about his son, who is 10 years old now. "I just want him to live a normal life without being bothered," he said.

In 2015, Yuan Lidong started to play online games. "Seeing a friend play, I found the game League of Legends very interesting. So I tried playing it on his computer," he said. Lying on the bed on his left side, Yuan Lidong held three chopsticks in his mouth-a shorter one to click the mouse and two longer ones to control the keyboard.

To the surprise of many, he was fast and superior when compared with many ordinary players. In the next two years, he hosted online games, which earned him 60,000 yuan ($8,600). "Although we have some allowance from the government to ensure our basic living needs, I want my family to live better lives," he said. "I also want to prove that I can be the breadwinner."

However, long hours of lying on his side affected his organs, which forced him to quit online gaming and turn to livestreaming.

With a smartphone tied to his wheelchair, he sings, plays online games and shows viewers his daily life-how he sits up, moves and eats-often in an amusing way.

Each show lasts around three to four hours, and he can receive up to 100 yuan ($15) of gratuity every day.

While many netizens give him "thumbs up" for his diligence and independence, others accuse him of "showing off" and "selling" his misery to the public.

However, Yuan Lidong has gotten used to such criticism. But his wife always defends him. "I just can't stand the online trolls criticizing my husband," she said. "I know his hardship, and I want to protect him."

Yuan plans to open a grocery store when he has enough savings.

"Although I have no arms or legs, I'm passionate about making progress, just like able-bodied people," he said. "I hope I can raise my family through my hard work."


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