Thursday, July 06, 2006

"The Left Behind Children"

A different kind of orphan now all too common in China's countryside:

Orphans of the Chinese Economy
Lu Siqin can't help but cry whenever someone mentions her parents. The 13-year-old doesn't remember the last time she saw her father. He left home to work on a construction site when she was 5. Her mother is deaf and mentally disabled. Siqin grew up in a world with few sounds of life. The only person she can talk to a little is her frail 73-year-old grandmother, who is nearly blind.

In the two teens' classrooms, about half the children raise their hands when asked how many are in a similar situation. Their parents are spread all over the world's most populous country, working on construction sites and factory floors, and in restaurants and timber mills.

As capitalism transforms this nominally communist nation, it has quietly reshaped the lives of China's rural young, creating a new underclass called liu shou er tong, or the "left-behind children." An entire generation is growing up without parents in deserted villages populated mostly by the very young and elderly.


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