An 8-year-old farm boy living frugally in east China became an online sensation after the internet discovered his striking resemblance to Alibaba CEO Jack Ma. The child’s photos went viral and people aptly named him Mini Jack Ma.
Now, over a year later, young Fan Xiaoqin’s pictures resurfaced during the recent Singles Day Sale, the largest online shopping event in the country, launched by e-commerce website Alibaba. However, this time around, the netizens not only circulated his pictures, many entrepreneurs also decided to approach the Fan family with commercial interests in mind.
As the Shanghaiist reports, Xiaoqin was born in 2008 into a very poor family. His father Fan Jiafa – the sole breadwinner of the family – is an amputee. He had his right leg cut off after being bitten by a snake in his 20s. The child’s mother suffers from mental illness, has polio and is blind in one eye. To make matters worse, his grandmother, who lives with the family, was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Xiaoqin also has a 13-year-old brother. However, both of the boys reportedly suffer from learning disabilities. Teachers claim other children avoid them because “they are quiet and dirty.”
The family also receives a meager government allowance, which is not enough for them to get by.
In a situation like this, Xiaoqin’s online stardom has really been helpful.
Fan claims many journalists, business executives, government officials and fans have given them money and gifts such as rice, milk, stationery, and snacks.
An unidentified businessman reportedly gave the boy’s family 6,000 yuan (about $872), an LCD television and some groceries to help improve their living conditions. Several others have donated to the brother’s education as well.
However, the fame has also brought some problems for Xiaoqin’s family.
For starters, Fan is worried that people only want to exploit his son.
Entrepreneurs usually visit the home and force the boy to take photos in order to promote their brands or products. Similarly, an online streaming site recently filmed their experience in Fan’s home and published it on their website to attract more followers on the internet.
The sudden onslaught of visitors in the remote village has also irked the locals, who complain the cars have crushed the road. Villagers claim they counted up to 50 visitors to the boy's house in just one day.
Many people also believe that Fan is taking advantage of his little son’s fame to earn money. Villagers accused him of earning hundreds of thousands of yuan when the total amount of donation was somewhere between 7,000 to 8,000 yuan.
However, despite all the controversies, the father is happy he can now send his sons to a good school and change their destinies.
“I'm glad that people came to visit us,” he said. “I don't have high hope that someone would be willing to fund my son. I just want my children to be able to study well. Only knowledge can change the destiny.”
Earlier this month, rumors arose the tech billionaire, Jack Ma, was going to fund his tiny doppelganger's education. Ma later rejected the reports.