Wednesday, January 30, 2008
China crisis: The human cost
You could only admire her bravery. A stream of pumped-up Chinese police reinforcements was slicing at speed through a tactical opening in the security barricades at Guangzhou train station.

The woman, 40ish, slightly built and alone, flung herself into the breach. For a moment it seemed she'd be minced meat. A police officer wrenched her aside and pulled the barricades back together.

"I want to go," she wailed. "I want to go."

But she was back with so many others, on the wrong side of security, with tens of thousands of people between her and the great prize of a seat on a train heading anywhere.

China's current emergency can be seen on one level as an epic collision.

On one side: nature, wild and indifferent. On the other: a very human drive to visit family during one slender window each year.

It is a deeply intimate story.

China's economic rise - and my cheap T-shirts and kids' toys - depend on ordinary Chinese who leave their homes to work often seven days a week in factories in the south. The trip home for Lunar New Year fulfils ancient obligations to family. It is also the only chance most of them have to see family members - including spouses and children - all year.

The vast tides of people waiting at Guangzhou might be sources of fascination, curiosity - even incomprehension. They can never be figures of fun.

Thirty years ago, the travel writer Jan Morris made a trip from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. She spoke of not seeing people so much as "statistics on the move." A neat line.

But the tens of millions currently disrupted by China's weather are no mere statistics. Theirs are all too human faces, desperate to keep faith with their families after for the long months of separation.

Their powers of endurance will be remembered long after their occasional flashes of exasperation or anger.

-- From CNN Correspondent Hugh Riminton in Guangzhou
This is a global story. What about the Olympics? Why no mention? We are all effected by this event. This is much more than about the Chinese people; we are one community spread over the planet. If we don't begin recognizing this fact, then we eventually will be surprised by the disaster that will ensue.

Wake up, all of us,

st john
Pardon the cliches, but this article truly places a human face on the situation in China to which everyone should be able to relate. Well done.
More than 500,000 stranded by showstorms in Guangzhou Train Station. most of them were migrant workers were stuck in Guangzhou after the bad weather (heavy snowfalls ).
i was watching one person by name li Moming a contrction worker spent the night on the streets, enduring a bone chilling drizzle. he spent the whole night on the streets and the train which takes him to his home town was cancelled .. its was a sorrow story to read that At Guangzhou’s main station yesterday, a massive outdoor plaza was packed with people pulling luggage or lifting it over their heads. The crowd eventually spilled out on to a major road in front of the station, and it had to be blocked off to create more space for the travellers.

The workers created small camps with their suitcases, bundles and plastic bags full of snacks. They littered the ground with chicken bones, sunflower seed shells and cigarette butts as they patiently waited for their trains.
Beware us from trying to politicize this event. This is a natural disaster and nothing else. The Chinese Government is for sure doing everything in there capacity to solve the problem because they know best what these days of reunion mean to there people. It's just a human tragedy that the two events came at exactely the same time. I have lived several years as expatriate in mainland china and half of my family is still living there. I have deep sympathy for the people who are in this situation right now. Let's wish them the best and a save trip back to there hometown.
China will likely to go through traumatic events like this as it grows too fast, too much. It is good though that you focused on the individual's story of family love. So many think of the Chinese as one giant thing...including their own government. The stories of how people can't make it home to simply see someone they are longing to see, is heart wrenching. I hope this story ends soon and doesn't take an even great turn for the worse. Chinese military should be sending in troop passenger vehicles to save this situation fast.
It is 'the day after tomorrow'in real life. It is understandable that everyone wants to go home, it is the only chance for migrate workers to go home, because like most Chinese overseas students, it only make sense for them to go home once a year, and save all the money for the whole family.

I don't think the Government or the police should allow people leave, even if they want to go home. It is not abusing their human rights, instead that's for their own safety. It makes more sense staying where it is safe rather than getting on a train and stopped by the snow in the middle on a bridge, or get killed because of the icy road, besides, more snow and icy rain is on the way. I always think, what if one of my family member is on the way? What if you know the plane or the train will crash, or have high chances? Will you still tell them to go ahead? If I knew 9.11 will happen, I would tell everyone stay away from planes, New York City and cancel all travel plans.

Yes, it is happening in China, but what would Americans or other nations do in this situation? We need to think about that. Just to review what was going on in the movie, 'the day after tomorrow'.

Why is there no international support or donation to China, but criticism? Is it ethical to allow someone do something that you know it will hurt or even kill him/her? Is it humanity?

We need to think about that.
It is so ridiculous to relating the huge travel volume during Chinese New year to the "human rights". Even without the migrant workers, the volume will still be very high. Go to India to have a look! The west always keeps criticizing the family plan policy (so called one-child policy), then questions why there are so many travelers. Do you think it is ridiculous? The key is the huge population in China. China is now doing what we think is right. Do not act like a police over us.
Wake up.Don't use such rediculous words to critisize Chinese human right problem.China's PM Wen Jiabao could hurried to the area to guide the anti-ice work,not eating or sleeping up to 36 hours.How about our Bush?
Indeed it is a global story, with nearly all the Southern Chinese provinces(almost half of China) impacted by the snow storm in different severity levels. The storm left inches of ice unbreakable on buildings and on the roads. Considering 4 hundred thousand people awaiting in 1 train station, hundreds of other cities faced the same thing, with greater magnitude of effect in rural areas. Almost all the major cities were short of water and electricity. Hundreds of thousands of people on the road are still left without food and shelter.

Since we all live on the same planet, why have we helped and spent so much time on Hurrican Katrina and what happened in New Orleans, yet ignoring the disaster in China? Not only it is the media's job to inform the public about this natural disaster, but also everyone on the planet to help those with needs.
They got too much snow in northern China and so people couldn't visit their family for Chinese New Year. We must fight global cooling! ;-P
Come on, people. What about Katrina in the USA? When Americans were struggling in the water, where were your solders and policemen? Where were the helps? Chinese solders and policemen were described like evils in your story. However in fact they were helping people in that situation. If the train station lost control to the millions of people, could you imagine how many more people would die? Your story never describe those hundreds and thousands of Chinese solders who were fighting with the bad weather and working on the icy roads, who were cooking and delivering foods to the ordinary people. Chinese solders were not like American solders. They were not trained to kill people, but were trained to help people. As a Chinese just went through this winter crisis, based on what I've seen with my eyes and what I've read in this story, I have to say that I'm so disappointed with you "look-like honest" CNN reporters. Your story is very biased.


Hunan, China
I am a westerner who has lived in China this past year. I encourage all to view the current plight of travelers in the weather disaster as a tide of emotion, not 'statistics on the move'. Those of us who are not Chinese must be careful not to objectify China's people as a set of statistics. They are like us in every way: unique individuals with family, culture and country; and when they all are of like mind, in a stressful situation like this one, they, too, will behave as we would. They will tell stories later of humaneness, stupidity, kindness, sacrifice, selfishness, selflessness, togetherness, struggle, and triumph. Think of this as a human story, not a Chinese story.
Thank you for helping us to see the human element in all of this.

China is such a large, beautiful country. It's hard to understand the magnitude of these storms and how great of an area they are truly affecting. I've been checking out weather maps online to get a better understanding how just how many people are impacted by these storms, but your article - and these blogs - helps us to see these people not only as numbers, but as individuals, too.


When happens to one of the largest Economy in the world, it shows that EVERY country needs to be prepared for the effects of Global Warming.
Thanks for so many greeting from American. Your kindnees shows that we are all living in the same world. Like 9.11 and Hurrican Katrina, we human are all faced with diffrent kinds of disaster every day, in China, US, Aferican... But we need peace, freedum, and democracy ...
I would like to say, China is on the way, with her great and long histry over 5K years. The key issue now in China is that all medias sholud be more free and open.

Take care of yourself and put more concern on China, this is the great country.

Good luck 2008!

B. Wan
Thanks for so many greeting from American. Your kindnees shows that we are all living in the same world. Like 9.11 and Hurrican Katrina, we human are all faced with diffrent kinds of disaster every day, in China, US, Aferican... But we need peace, freedum, and democracy ...
I would like to say, China is on the way, with her great and long histry over 5K years. The key issue now in China is that all medias sholud be more free and open.

Take care of yourself and put more concern on China, this is the great country.

Good luck 2008!

B. Wan
Well, this is definitely not "Chinese" crisis. It true that people is longing to back home after a year round work, but facing to a natural disaster in this case, the US government cannot do more than this, except for putting more money. It's a ridiculous story in which human being condemn each other. Why don't give your help but not just look on coldly?
To Jane in Hunan, China. I think you are mistaken as to your reading of this article. I did not read this as Chinese police/military being evil. Of course they have to keep everyone in line. If you let some people skip the line, there will be complete chaos. I think the article sympathetically describes this situation in China.
So, the so called 'global warming' is showing its teeth and apparently no country, despite their power, technology or size, ready for it.
With no hidden political agenda, we should all see this disaster as a sign to do all we could do in fighting 'global warming' effect and not as a reason to point finger on another country.
This is not about China. But about human being.

For so many years talking with these people, feeling them, ... The only word I would say is: I do wish they can get what they deserve, better paid, better quality of life, etc...

I feel with all our nice people and happy Chinese new year!

We, Chinese, are friendly to other people. We want to develop our country and at the same time bring the wealth and hope to other people we are in need. Due to the right policies we have adopted in China now, we are developing fast and becoming stronger. The living standard of the people is increasing year after year. But some minority, especially in certain developed world do not like to see a strong China. They would like a weak China that they can tease with. But 1.3 billion Chinese say no. We had been invaded by the western countries and colonized by Japanese in the past. We know what is going on in Darfur from the experience we suffered before, I think, although I am not an expert on this topic. We respect these famous directors, but not these direcotrs wearing a colorful glass and these who know nothing about politics but only about fame. It is a unretarding trend that China is becoming stronger and stronger in this century, but will be one of the most responsible countries in the world.

a chinese
What I saw were people who wanted to be with family stopped by a natural disaster. Instantly it was as if all were one in helping another, to comfort and protect all those caught in this crisis. I saw soldiers shoveling roads in freezing weather, handing out food, water and medical help with blankets appearing out of nowhere.
All were trying to make sure the people would somehow make it home.
Then it snowed again making everything worse.
Somehow they made it through all the waiting and discomfort without mass riots and gun toting police trying to control gangs of thugs. It is a story of humanity and how the good Chinese people make it through a disaster. This is my second trip for the New Year from the USA, my heart goes out to those forced to stay home and bravely make the best of a bad situation.
It made Katrina a sad contrast to USA Government and American people. xie,xie China, dan
this artical is really encouraging as it presents another voice. true as it is the army and the soliders are doing their best to help improve the situation, but i've already fed up by such "moving" stories. news and stories form the mess media here in China are forvever talking in the same tune.
I have read the story about American Military in Japan: A U.S soldier raped a 13 years old girl. So, shall I imagine that all of U.S soldiers are animals?
The article is not in an impersonal attitude. A tree is different from forest. We, Chinese, just want go home for reunion with family in Lunar New Year. The extrem weather blocked our way home when there were so many person have the desire at the moment, which supposed to lead to another disaster. Goverment just tried to avoid this to protect HUMAN safety. That was the way to protect not as the article reports.
For the peoples all around the globe should give concern on these matter as well, since most of the chinese labours travelled to the south beside earning some foods for themself also made us some products that's we are using daily. By the way thirty years ago got a neat line of travelling from Guangzhou to Hong Kong is for sure, imagine the distance between this two destination only takes 2 hours, futhermore there aren;t much of people could be travel to Hong Kong though. So is really uncomparable with old days.
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