Tragedy sparks debate on the fate of migrant children in China

The explosion at an illegal firecracker factory in Guangxi two weeks ago that left two primary school children dead and 11 others badly injured has provoked not only anger and sympathy for the victims but also a wide-ranging discussion in the Chinese blogosphere about the problems of left-behind children and the inequities of the household registration system.

All of the victims of the explosion in Yanghui village were left-behind children, whose parents were working in factories hundreds of kilometers away in the neighbouring province of Guangdong. The children were assembling firecrackers early in the morning before school when the explosion ripped through the small workshop.

Jennifer Cheung of Global Voices has translated several blogs written in the aftermath of the tragedy which show that many people in China are sympathetic to and clearly understand the problems faced on a daily basis by migrant workers and their children. For example, Tianya blogger Li Hui asked:

Why are illegal child workers are always left-behind children? What underlies this issue is not only the illegal employment of child workers, but more profoundly, it is an issue caused by China’s rural-urban divide, and the serious imbalance of education resources.

While in a blog entitled “Who should apologize for the tragedy of the left-behind children,” Tong Dahuan asked:

Is it in the fundamental interests of children that the government doesn’t give them all equal access to education and allow them to take part in the national college entrance exam? Is it in the fundamental interests of children that the government separates children from their parents with the household registration system?

Comments left on Southern Weekend’s website also showed that readers were all too well aware of the underlying problems behind the Yanghui tragedy. For example, Yanchenyu wrote:

The household registration system is the root cause of the left-behind children tragedy. Urban residents are enjoying the prosperity brought about by migrant workers, but they don’t provide sufficient protection for migrant workers, neither do they provide education for migrant workers’ children.

For more information about these important issues, please see CLB’s new research report Paying the Price for Economic Development: The Children of Migrant Workers in China.
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