Monday, 22 January 2018

"Ice Boy" Reveals Plight of "Left-Behind" Children

"Ice Boy" Wang Fuman (centre) visits Beijing for the first time
Over a week ago there was an uproar in Chinese cyberspace with the story of "Ice Boy".

Wang Fuman, an eight-year-old boy from Ludian county, in a poor area of Yunnan province became famous overnight when he was photographed with his hair, eyelashes and eyebrows covered in frost and he wasn't wearing enough clothes to keep warm. It took him over an hour to walk 4.5km to get to school everyday.

The picture went viral with many in China feeling sorry for the boy, who is a "left-behind child", because his parents have to leave home to work elsewhere, while Wang and his older sister are raised by their grandparents.

This picture of "Ice Boy" went viral
An outpouring of sympathy led to donations of over 300,000 yuan (US$46,900), but apparently not all the money went to the child -- apparently the local government only gave the family 8,000 yuan, saying it was not good for the boy to become "rich" overnight, which led to questions of where the rest of the money went.

State broadcaster CCTV reported 100,000 yuan went to Wang's school, Zhuangshanbao. So where did the over 202,000 yuan go?

Maybe it went towards his "free" trip to Beijing this past weekend for three days with his father and older sister. But the propaganda website China Peace, run by the Party's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission claims to have shelled out for the trip.

It was the first time Wang had ever been on a plane, left his hometown and gone elsewhere. He also marveled that people in the Chinese capital had indoor heating, which probably led to him wondering why he didn't have that at home.

"It's very cold at home, but very warm in Beijing. At home, we have to burn charcoal at night for warmth. In Beijing, the rooms are so warm -- I only need to wear one layer of clothing. This is the first time I've come across heating, it really is a miracle," he said. "I want to see how children in Beijing go to school, and whether they need to walk a long way everyday."

He and his sister in their bare home
He might also be shocked to find kids in the big city get driven by car or take the bus, not many actually walk to school -- let alone 4.5km -- to get to class.

And apparently to make life better for Wang, his father has been given a job in his hometown so he doesn't have to be away from his children. Is he really going to earn enough money to support the family? And what about the other parents of "left-behind" children? Is the government going to offer them jobs too?

These stop-gap measures hardly solve the problem of "left-behind" children. It wouldn't be a surprise to find after six months to a year that Wang's father needs to leave again to support his family.

The government really doesn't seem to care or understand the plight of these people and that the economy is dependent on migrants like Wang's father to work in big cities. However, the sacrifices they make are a big impact on the family's emotional well-being.

"When I saw the photo, there was pain in my heart," says Wang's 28-year-old father. "I couldn't stay home and look after my children -- I had no choice. If I didn't leave and find work somewhere else, my two kids would've have had nothing to eat."

How is Xi Jinping going to solve this problem? With "left-behind" children, their education level is lower which leads to less opportunities later in life, stuck doing menial work and unable to further improve their situation.

If China values these 60 million children, then it will do something, but so far not much has been done for them. If Xi wants to eradicate poverty by 2020, these children need to be on the priority list.

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