An eight-year-old American boy with terminal cancer has prompted thousands of Chinese Internet users to post photos online in support after he told his father he wanted to be famous in the Asian country before dying.
Dorian Murray was diagnosed with the pediatric soft tissue cancer rhabdomyosarcoma at the age of four.
Earlier this month, his family decided to stop treatment after discovering the disease had spread to his spinal cord and brain.
“All the meds, everything we have to go through, it’s just a lot, it’s a lot to take,” the boy matter-of-factly told local TV station WPRI.
The Rhode Island boy told his father Chris that before he “goes to heaven” he “would like to be famous in China… because they have that bridge”, referring to the Great Wall.
The family posted the conversation on their public Facebook page “Praying for Dorian” on Monday, and it has since gone viral on the Chinese Internet, despite the social network being blocked in the country.
It has been translated and reposted on Chinese sites, with thousands of people uploading photos of themselves at the Great Wall and other locations, many with signs displaying the family’s hashtag #D-Strong.
— Lance Bass (@LanceBass) January 13, 2016
“The children of LVMS all participate to make Dorian famous in China,” read a caption on a photo of a kindergarten class.
A page for the tag on China’s Twitter-like Weibo had been viewed more than a million times by Thursday lunchtime.
Dorian’s family said online they were “completely in awe” at the response.
China operates some of the tightest online controls in the world, with content deemed to be sensitive deleted and access to some Western websites blocked, along with the services of Internet giants including Twitter and Google as well as Facebook.
“I’m so sorry if you can’t see how many people are responding in China,” wrote one Weibo poster. “It’s not that the Chinese people are indifferent – it’s that we can’t log onto Facebook.”
Nevertheless, Dorian’s story made headlines Thursday, with the state-run China Daily newspaper putting it on its front page.
“Wish granted,” the paper said on its own Facebook account.
The normally stiff-lipped official Xinhua news agency was also moved, writing in a unusually rapturous commentary: “Love has magic power. A boy’s imagination has turned the anti-invasion wall into a bridge that connects hearts oceans away.
“Language barrier, thousands of miles of distance, East to the West… all are nothing with this bridge.”