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Children's Day offers young migrants hope
By Li Jing in Beijing and Qiu Quanlin in Guangzhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-06-01 05:34

As China's one-child parents pamper their kids with fancy gifts and expensive outings today-the International Children's Day-the plight of two youngsters in Beijing and Guangzhou shows the harsh sides of life.

For Zhang Luyao in Beijing, it is just a day off from school spent doing chores at home while Wang Meng, 14, in Guangzhou marks the day in a rehabilitation centre.

Without fancy gifts and outings with parents, the whole meaning of the International Children's Day to eight-year-old Zhang is just a day off from school and doing chores at home.

"I know every June 1 is a holiday for children, but my mum and dad have never celebrated it with me," said Zhang, who who came to Beijing with his parents from a small village in Central China's Henan Province three years ago.

He said his parents make a living selling vegetables and fruits at an open-air market. He lives with his father, mother, elder sister and, younger brother in a 12-square-metre rented house in an isolated and underdeveloped community near the northeastern section of the Fourth Ring Road.

While today may appear bleak, there was some consolation for Zhang yesterday. "I am very happy because my school celebrated the holiday for our students," Zhang told China Daily.

Zhang said he watched a joint performance by a group of trained students perform music on the playground and watched with 400-plus schoolmates.

Li Bingying, president of the Anmin Primary School, said most parents do not earn much and have no time to play with their children.

"But International Children's Day appears to be only for urban kids," said Li. "Migrant workers' children deserve the same equal rights and opportunities as their urban counterparts."

Li said while the government and the society are increasingly concerned about their welfare, there is still a long way to go to create a level playing field for an equal starting point for both urban and migrant children.

In Guangzhou, Wang was in tears after singing together with fellow residents in the Guangzhou Street Children Relief and Protection Centre yesterday,.

"It is the first time that I did not have a Children's Day celebration with my parents. They used to buy gifts for me on the special occasion.

The centre, together with the Guangzhou Culture Bureau, held a celebration for 92 street children.

Wang was found near an expressway toll gate in Guangzhou four months ago.

He left home seven months ago after a quarrel with his parents - and much to his sorrow now, is unable to contact them.

"Going back to my family is what I am most concerned about now,"he said.

Wang is one of 1,917 children who have been sheltered at the centre since its launch in July 2003 in the capital city of Guangdong Province. Most of the kids, aged between 10 and 15, are from rural areas.

"These children need the love and attention of society," said Hu Guozhi, deputy director of the centre.

As of yesterday, about 95 per cent of the children brought to the centre have been sent back to their families, according to Hu.

(China Daily 06/01/2005 page1)

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