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A new national network funded by Hong Kong's business tycoon Li Ka-shing is aiming to help 58,000 disabled Chinese people back on their feet with artificial limbs by 2005.

And, by 2015, the China Disabled Persons' Federation hopes to have every Chinese person be able to stand, said Wang Yunping of the group.

"For those living in remote areas with a yearly household income below 1,000 yuan (US$120), travelling to a big city and purchasing an artificial limb at around 5,000 yuan (US$600) was unimaginable until this project," Wang said.

Already, about 1,400 Chinese people who have no legs have already benefited from Li's generosity. The organization has received HK$60 million (US$7.5 million) from Li to spend, and the results have "given a real turn for better in their lives."

Amputee Cui Zhanguo of Northeast China's Jilin Province burst into tears and gushed his gratitude toward Li for the artificial limbs. He suffered severe frostbite, leading to the amputations in 1996.

For four years, he couldn't walk and had to crawl about. He felt desperate about his life and tried to commit suicide. "This project saved my life," he sobbed.

On the day he stood up again thanks to the artificial limbs, his village rejoiced with a fireworks display. Cui can now work in agriculture again.

The network is establishing 20 equipping centers in 14 regions to serve this population.


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