Once the subject of sympathy after his family died, a Chinese man faces scorn for starting a new one

·4-min read

A man in China who received an outpouring of national sympathy after the shocking death of his family has become the object of scorn after he announced he had fallen in love and was starting a new family.

Lin Shengbin lost his wife and three kids in 2017 when the family domestic helper deliberately set fire to their home in Hangzhou, in eastern China, hoping that she could put it out to curry favour with her employers.

The domestic helper, Mo Huanjing, had been in gambling debt and hoped the scheme would allow her to borrow money.

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Lin’s family was killed in a fire deliberately set by their domestic helper. Photo: Handout
Lin’s family was killed in a fire deliberately set by their domestic helper. Photo: Handout

Lin was away on a business trip when the incident happened. Mo was sentenced to death in February 2018 for the crime.

In the aftermath of the fire, the public supported Lin because of his heart-wrenching writings about the loss, his tenacious legal battles for financial compensation and his active engagement in philanthropy. He even started a new business named Tong Zhen Yi Sheng, after the names of the family members who died.

But the internet turned on Lin, who is 40 years old, when he shared the news last week that he had found a new wife and they had just welcomed a baby.

Fans felt that he had cultivated an image of a forlorn lover who was simply biding his time until he could be reunited with his deceased family.

Mo Huanjing was executed for setting the fire that killed the family. Photo: QQ.com
Mo Huanjing was executed for setting the fire that killed the family. Photo: QQ.com

The revelation that he had a new family resulted in charges that Lin was a hypocrite who had taken advantage of the dead and cashed in on public sympathy.

“You deserve a new life, but you never should use your dead wife and children to promote your business when you already fell in love with another person and even had a baby!” wrote one person online.

One of Lin’s posts caused more of a stir than others. In late May, after his new daughter was born, Lin wrote about his late wife: “Return to the time when we were in love. All of these memories are attacking me.”

Under that post, one of the most popular comments read: “This is ridiculous. Is it fair to your wife to say such things here? Let alone your ex-wife and children”.

Lin would sue nine different organisations that he believed were responsible for the death of his family. Photo: Handout
Lin would sue nine different organisations that he believed were responsible for the death of his family. Photo: Handout

Lin’s username on Weibo used to be “Wife and Children in Paradise”, which drew millions of followers because of the shocking nature of the case. He eventually renamed the channel to his real name. Now he has over 4.3 million fans on the platform.

Lin used live streaming to sell his kids’ clothing brand on Taobao, China’s largest online shopping platform owned by Alibaba, which also owns the South China Morning Post.

After the announcement of his daughter, people criticised Lin, saying he leveraged his tragic past to promote products.

The criticism reached a fever pitch in the following days and Lin has not responded, but all of the products were removed from the site overnight for unknown reasons.

Not everyone attacked Lin, with some users saying people should allow him to live his life.

“It is a family matter, something private. Let’s step back a little,” one user said.

The aftermath of the fire in Lin’s flat. Photo: Handout
The aftermath of the fire in Lin’s flat. Photo: Handout

After the fire, Lin sued nine companies he believed were also responsible for the tragedy, such as the property management company for inadequate fire emergency response and the domestic helper agency for not properly vetting Mo.

He demanded compensation totalling 138 million yuan (US$21.4 million) from the defendants. A confidentiality agreement prevented the public from learning how much money Lin received.

Recently, rumours swirled that Lin had kept all the compensation for himself and had not paid his parents-in-law, as the court ruled. Lin’s lawyer, Lin Jie, denied the speculation.

In recent years, Lin has donated money to schools in remote areas and volunteered at orphanages. He also donated 5,000 face masks to Wuhan early last year when protective gear was extremely scarce after Covid-19 first hit the city.

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