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Ori_A

A short documentary about a China's left behind children

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abcdefg

Good job! I am glad you are documenting this phenomenon. Thank you for posting. Enjoyed the video. Very well done!

 

I have several friends in Kunming who have come here from their remote villages seeking a better life. One such friend must ride the bus (actually more than one bus) 11 hours to get back into the mountains to see her family at Spring Festival. In point of fact they are Hani minority people 哈尼族 and celebrate their new year in November, so that's when the extended family re-unites 团聚。

 

Education is expensive, even the early years, and is carefully doled out to the child who has the best academic potential. the one most likely to succeed. My friend is female, one of 4 children. Her older sister was traded away (sold) in her mid-teens to a neighboring clan to become a carpenter's wife during a lean year in order to have enough food to keep the rest of the children alive. 

 

My friend and her younger brother were sent to school as far as the 6th grade. Then they were put to work. The brother is now on a factory assembly line in Hangzhou. The mother is doing a janitorial job in a factory in Shenzhen for minimum wage. She had to 打工 for the first time in her 50's about 3 years ago after the family incurred some large medical debts. It was particularly difficult for her to leave the home because she barely speaks Chinese. (In the village they only use dialect.) 

 

One younger sister was particularly bright. She was encouraged to go to middle school and high school, where she did very well. She gained entrance to the forestry university in Kunming, where she majored in agricultural management. After that, she took a cram course of legal study and eventually passed a licensing exam to work as an attorney, or actually what sounds more like a para-legal or attorney's assistant. She is their hope for the future. 

 

It isn't an easy life. Sometimes it is romanticized in fiction, but the reality of it can be harsh.  

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Ori_A

Thank you for sharing this story. Migration to the cities has become easier in many ways, but there are still big challenges for the individuals and the families that choose to do so. 
I'm glad that you enjoyed the film, and thank you for commenting.

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Dawei3

It's a wonderful movie.  The music blends SO well with the scenes.  The photography is also excellent.  I like how you give us a sense of the environment by not just filming the people, but also the landscapes & insects.  I like listening to the dialog because their pace of speech isn't fast.  

 

The movie also raises lingering questions for me.  I'd often heard about parents moving away from their kids, but I had thought they could still maintain the parental bond, so this movie intrigues me.  In addition, it seems like the usual reason for moving away is to make money.  Hence, it surprised me that the parents could send no money home.  Hence, beyond the enjoyment of watching the movie, it also will stay in my mind because of its unanswered questions.  (which as a movie maker, you may like to know)

 

Thanks much for sharing this with us.  Please share future ones.   

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Ori_A

Dawei3, 
Thank you for you comment! I'm happy that you enjoyed the film and found it interesting.
As for your questions - 
When we're talking about such an extensive phenomenon, there are many different stories and realities. Many parents send money regularly and remain in touch with their children. I've met families where the parents call home once or twice a week, and other families where the parents don't call at all. Many parents leave home when their child is very young (such as the case in the film), so being in touch with him is obviously very difficult during the first few years. 
Specificaly for this film, as far as I know it is not entirely true that the parents don't ever send money. I know that they had helped pay for the newly built house the grandparents built in the village, for example. The grandfather feels very sad that his son has the life that he does, not being able to be with his son, but not being able to earn a lot of money outside. I think he had expected that the parents working outside would have a bigger financial impacat on the entire family, but it doesn't, unfortunately. 

I share bits from the project on social moedia, and I will post more here in the future. 
Thank again for taking interest.

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vellocet

They can't bring their kids with them because of the hukou system.  It was started in 1958 by the communists as a means of social control.  This system was implemented as a tool for geographic, economic, political and social control resulting in an apartheid structure that denies farmers the same advantages and rights as those experienced by residents of the urban areas.

 

The People’s Republic of China was hugely agrarian. To speed industrialization, the government emulated the Soviet model of prioritizing heavy industry. To be able to finance such an expansion, authorities overpriced industrial goods while in the process underpriced agricultural ones. The two sectors experienced unequal exchange where peasants’ agricultural products were paid less than their market price.

 

For the government to sustain such an untypical imbalance, it created a system that will impose restrictions on the free flow of relevant resources, more particularly labor between agriculture and industry in the city and the countryside. This resulted in everyone becoming either an urban or rural resident. The state required these two categories of the population to continue residing and working within their geographical locations.

 

You can't enter a school unless you have the right hukou.  That's why these people can't bring their kids with them.

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Ori_A

Hi vellocet, thank you for your comment.
The Hukou system does indeed have a role in all of this, but it's a little bit more complicated than that. Contrary to what many people think, the Hukou system does not prevent rural children from attending schools in the cities. The draconian restrictions you describe were the initial goal of the Hukou, and were indeed implemented for many years. But while the official rules have changed very little, They are enforced very differently these days. 
Thanks to a general economic improvement throughout China, many migrant families can now move to the cities with their children, even without acuiring an urban Hukou (more and more every year, in fact). Some of them struggle, but others manage pretty well, and their children attend schools just like the urban children. On paper, elementary and middle school education is free for migrant kids as well, and is indeed in many places. 
Problems start with discrimination towards mingrant kids and their parents, illegally demanding payments from migrant parents that are not required from others. Other issues include the parents' own inablity to raise their children in the cities, due to unstable jobs or simply high living expenses. The Hukou does still restrict migrants from receiving free health insurance or social services, and that is a problem as well.
There is another opinion among many Chinese people that I've spoken to, which is that these are all excuses. Whereas migraion in the past was a very big deal, today the salaries are much higher, and many believe that this "left behind children" phenomenon has become a reality that everyone's gotten used to, but it doesn't have any real justification anymore.  
In reality, it's probably a combination of both. 

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Ruben von Zwack

Thank you for sharing this film. It was very touching to watch.

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abcdefg

For 3 or 4 years I lived near a school (in Kunming) for children without Hukou. It was about year 2000. I would walk nearby with Chinese friends sometimes and they explained to me that this particular school was a "combination" school for primary students 小学, middle school students 中学, and beginning high school students 高中。Students who did very well could transfer to an ordinary high school for their last couple years to take college prep courses and sit for the national entrance exams 高考。

 

One of my friends at that time was a Chinese lady who taught private English classes. Some of her paying students were from that school. She said the kids were generally eager to learn and their parents were notable for making sure the kids did their homework. The parents paid her in cash face to face once a week and always wanted to have some sort of progress conference when they did so. They were very concerned about the children. 

 

I recall a small publicly-operated medical clinic (not sure whether it was city or provincial) close to the entrance of the school. A local friend told me the students at that school and their families could go there for minor care without paying a lot since the operational costs were subsidized. I remember that they washed and re-used wooden tongue depressors (used to look at a sore throat) -- they would be laid out to dry in careful rows on white towels on a long window sill in bright sun. Would not be surprised if they sharpened and autoclaved multi-use hypodermic needles, though that is only a guess. (It's a skill I learned as a military medic in the early 1960's.)

 

Though the neighborhood was old and poor, it was clean and very low crime. A friend who was a policeman in that section 小区 told me that. 

 

(I'm not making any kind of a social point here. Just remembering and recounting.)

 

 

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Ori_A

@abcdefg Thank you for sharing. So much have changed since those years in China, and yet some things remain the same. 

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