Owner grew rich while operating Love Village, authorities charge
Authorities in North China's Hebei Province closed an orphanage and have detained its well-known owner over the weekend in a case that has sparked discussions on whether an individual should be allowed to accumulate wealth while operating a charity.
Li Lijuan, the owner and operator of an orphanage in Wu'an in Hebei was put under detention on Saturday after evidence of suspected crimes surfaced, according to official releases by the Wu'an Publicity Department and Wu'an Bureau of Civil Administration on Saturday.
The orphanage, named Love Village, gained fame after its owner Li, who claimed to be a millionaire, said she had adopted 118 abandoned, disabled babies or orphans. Her deeds were widely reported by the media and she became a positive figure nationwide.
After gaining fame, Li started to use the charity to accumulate her own wealth, said the authorities, adding that she had received a large amount of public funding and money from philanthropists.
She owned multiple real estate properties, luxury vehicles and had a large amount of cash in her bank account, states the release.
Some orphans Li adopted actually have parents, said authorities. Their names were used by Li's Love Village in order to deceive the authorities into giving them basic living allowances, reads the release.
The 74 orphans at the shelter are being taken good care of after the closing of the orphanage, the authorities said. Sixty-nine of them are disabled or infants and three of them are adults. Three other children were found outside of the orphanage, the report said.
"Any new information on this matter will be published on the Wu'an official WeChat platform," Wang Haibo, the director of the Wu'an Publicity Department, told the Global Times on Sunday.
In response to reports that there were kidnapped children in the Love Village, police have taken blood and fingerprint samples of the children, which will be used to find their families with the help of the nationwide missing children information system, according to the release.
"Local authorities should strengthen supervision when it comes to child adoption," Yang Hong, a lawyer specializing in the rights of women and children, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"People and the media should be more careful when they build a positive figure like Li. They should investigate what kind of person he or she actually is and if what he or she does is actually legal," said Yang.
Li's arrest shocked the public leading to many comments about her presumed guilt. The authorities said she will be judged in a court of law.