Chinese woman pays $61,000 back to donors who helped her dad

In 2015, Hai Lin posted an appeal for 300 donations of 1,000 yuan (S$200) on WeChat with a promise to pay lenders back within five years.
PHOTO: Pixabay

A woman from southeastern China has returned 300,000 yuan (S$61,000) to 300 people - many of them strangers - who donated money to a crowdfunding appeal she started four years ago.

In 2015, Hai Lin posted an appeal for 300 donations of 1,000 yuan on WeChat, with a promise to pay lenders back within five years. She kept her promise - and paid back all her loans two years early.

The internet was abuzz with the story of Hai's appeal, which was reported by video site on Tuesday. Many people said it warmed their hearts and restored their confidence in society.

Hai took to the social media app WeChat in June 2015, saying she needed the money because her father - a truck driver - knocked a man down and had to pay compensation.

At the time, Hai's mother had been admitted to hospital with bleeding on the brain.

"The man [hit by her father] was in critical condition," the video site quoted Hai, then 27 and from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, as saying. "We had to hide the accident from my mother so that her rehabilitation won't be affected."

Hai said the accident was a big blow and, for the first time in her life, she felt frightened.

"My father told me that if we couldn't afford the compensation, he would run away to escape the debt," Hai said. "I said I would try my best to keep that from happening."

In her post on WeChat, she wrote that she was looking for 300 people to lend her 1,000 yuan each. She planned to pay back those debts in five years by returning money to five lenders each month.

"It's because I couldn't find someone who could lend me 300,000 yuan at a one time," she said. "Some friends said they could have loaned me 100,000 yuan, but I refused their kindness because that was too big an amount."

To her surprise, 300 WeChat contacts, many of whom were not acquaintances, came up with the funds in one night.

In July 2015, Hai began to pay back the money she had borrowed. By July of last year, two years ahead of schedule and thanks to pay rises and year-end bonuses, the debt was cleared.

Some creditors had deleted Hai's WeChat details, so she had to track them down.

"Girl, thank you for restoring trust which I thought I'd lost and for warm feelings that will stay with me," one of her creditors wrote on WeChat.

Another said that when he received Hai's money transfer he thought someone was joking. After recalling Hai's appeal, he said he was touched by her gesture.

"You gave us 300 people a warm hug," he said on WeChat.

The report on had more than 40,000 "likes" on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, while users added 10,000 combined reposts and comments.

"In her [Hai's] mind there was a debt while other people would treat it as donation," an internet user wrote. "I think many people wouldn't expect her to return the money."

"It shows this woman is a nice person in her everyday life and deserves credit. I would lend money to people like her," another wrote.

One cautious Weibo user said: "I've never loaned money to people whom I never met face-to-face and only chatted with online."

"Is it a big thing that you borrow money and pay it back?" asked another user. "You borrow 1,000 yuan from a person and return it years later. Is it something to feel proud of?"

This article was first published in South China Morning Post