NANJING • Chinese netizens donated more than 300,000 yuan (S$63,000) within three hours after news went viral of a young single mother caught stealing a chicken drumstick and two books as Children's Day gifts, according to Chinese media outlets.
Ms Liu Jinyan, who was originally from Shandong, has seven-year-old twin girls, both of whom have been suffering from kidney disease since they were one.
She is divorced, and earns about 50 yuan a day as an odd-job worker at a waste collection station. But she regularly travels hundreds of kilometres to Nanjing with the twins to seek better medical treatment, a report from Modern Express said.
Last week, she took the older twin to Nanjing to seek treatment. By Tuesday, she was down to her last five yuan, and the mother was quoted as saying that her sick daughter had asked for presents as June 1 was Children's Day.
"She wanted to eat a chicken drumstick and also wanted two 'Three Character Primer' (Sanzijing, a Chinese children's textbook on character building) - one for herself and one for her younger sister."
The drumstick costs seven yuan, while each book costs 19 yuan. After hesitating for a while, Ms Liu finally decided to shoplift the items.
She was caught red-handed and then released without charge as the value of the stolen items was less than 100 yuan, which meant that the act was not deemed criminal under Chinese laws.
The report attracted an outpouring of sympathy, and a website set up to raise funds was shut down in less than a day after experts said the amount raised would be enough to cover the girls' medical expenses.