Street children, there is no place worse than home


(From For most people, there is no place like home. However, in street children rescue and protection centers, there are a considerably large number of children who choose to leave home and try everything they can to stay out. Preventing children from running away becomes an unwritten duty for staffs in the children’s aid centers. Why don’t they want to go home? Poverty, disease, incomplete family, migrant working parents, illegitimate birth or outside-of-state-plan birth, domestic violence etc. push these children away from home; on the other hand, seeing no hope down the road of exam-oriented education, these adolescent kids escape to the city for money and freedom.


(1) Zeng Guangming, from Guangzhou Street Children Relief and Protection Center, is a little rebellous. He ran away from home secretly. Unwilling to face the camera, he said: “I don’t want to be sent home.”


(2) Bai Lulu, 14 years old, came to tears when heard she was to be sent back to home in Ningxia Autonomous Region for the 3rd time. She ran away soon after she was sent home the last two times. As one of the 5 kids in a single parent family, she knows that her poor father is unable to support all of them. Staffs of the rescue center feel sorry for her but they have to send her back for the law stipulate the children to be repatriated as soon as their hometown revealed.


(3) 12-year-old Xiao Qiang and his 9-year-old sister Xiao Ling are performing on the street in Puyang County, Henan Province. According to the two, they left their hometown Anhui Province because their family couldn’t pay for their education, so they learned to practice qigong (a kind of Chinese martial arts) to perform for money on the street. Xiao Qiang is the main character in the performance, he lies topless on a board studded with iron spikes and let his sister walk on his chest. Viewers their age are often too frightened to look when they perform. To earn as much as possible, Xiao Qiang has to perform again and again. It is not hard to tell from the strips of calluses on Xiao Qiang’s back that he is an experienced street performer.


(4) Zhao Yan, born in Dec 1994 in Hunan Province. Her parents left her to grandma’s and went work in the city when she was 2 years old. 3 years later they came back with a little sister and brother. But 5-year-old Zhao Yan has grown so estranged to them that she seldom called them mum and dad. Frustrated by this, the parents threatened and beat her in order for her to call them, which made Zhao Yan even more scared of them. As seen in the photo, Zhao Yan struggled as the police send her home, she screamed: “I don’t want to go home, mum will beat me to death.”


In March 2000, Zhao Yan was abandoned in a mountain far away from home by her mother who lured her to play there. Luckily her grandma found and saved her. However her mother scolded grandma for doing this, and declared whoever took her Zhao Yan back should be responsible for her. Grandma then gave up. No home for little Zhao Yan, she drifted to other places, sitting on straws, sleeping under others eaves, suffer hunger and cold. Outside she gets help from kind people, but being sent back home is just another starting point for being driven away by her parents over and over again. As seen in the photo,  little Zhao Yan was sleeping under somebody’s eaves even after the sun came out.


(5) Little Qi Jiang, in Chongqing Railway Station, started his drifter life in September. He didn’t want to talk much about himself except that he was from a broken family in Qi Qiang District, Chongqi Province. Unable to finished primary school and unable to take any more violence from his father, little Qi Jiang climbed on a train and into the society. As seen in the photo, Qi Jiang hid under a train, enjoying his surprise discovery – a piece of instant noodle.


Qi Jiang and other drifting children has to climb into the carriage before the train stops so as to find some food before getting caught by the conductor. Climbing train is almost a required subject for this group of waif.


When night falls, stairways outside the train station become Qi Jiang’s temporary bed.


Ahyee in the carriage are often nice to little Qi Jiang, who can’t help but come to tears when asked about his past.


(6) In the breakwater of Nanfei River in Anhui Province lives 7 vagabonds, 4 of whom are minors. As seen in the photo, children just wake up in the culvert.


Among the 4 minors, there are a pair of brothers, and 14-year-old Xiao Long and 16-year-old Xiao Hui. They don’t have much to do other than playing on the street.


Liu Tianfa, 14 years old and his 12-year-old brother Liu Tianbing are the youngest residents at the culvert. They come from Yunnan Province and followed parents to Anhui Province. With 5 other sisters making a full time noisy crowd at home, Liu brothers prefer the free world outside: “The days of drifting is very free. There are too many people at home, noisy all day long, our parents are always fighting too, just sick of it.” Liu Tianbing said they had been out for more than half year, during which their parents found them once but they managed to run away nonetheless.


12 years old little brother Liu Tianbing is a 2-year smoker already.


A kind man is cutting Liu Tianfa’s hair for him, the other three wait by the side.


Li Xi, nicknamed Little Dragon, is from Anhui Province. 14 years old as he is, he is a 6-year smoker and quite a sophisticated survivor. His memory of home seems to stay the same when he was only 8. He said he is afraid to go home, parents fought constantly, everytime they fought, he shrank back in a corner; later his parents divorced and he ran away. He was taken home by his mom for a few times only to run away again. He has escaped over 100 times. During the year, he has been to Wu Hu City, Ma An Shan City, Fou Yang City of Anhui Province and Nanjing.

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(7) Shenzhen City, several children are playing poker on the street. They live on the street and can be seen at the same spot same time everyday. Sometimes they are seen mingling with other adult street gangs. Playing poker game is the best way to kill time for them. Perhaps in the eyes of these children, the unrestrained drifting life outside is more preferable than a loveless home.

  1. How come there’s information on Zhao Yan (4) with the known fact that her worthless parents especially the freaking woman who gave birth are not being arrested for child neglect and molestation! Urban journalism is great but powerless without actions.

  2. I’ve never understood how any parent could neglect or hate their own children. Don’t give me that “face” bullshit, nobody should put themselves before their children. It seems like this is common among Chinese people: they put themselves before their children almost every single time. Face > everything.

    1. Your statement of “It seems like this is common among Chinese people” I see it as Chinese people in China. I am sure Chinese people elsewhere are different. Certainly isn’t true for Chinese living in America, at least not any that I witnessed.

    2. Visit a trailer park in appalachia prior speaking spouting this garbage.

      Without our social safety net, the same will happen in California, dimwit.

  3. The stories from China are horrendous and the phrase ” no place worse than home” is the limit. I think in programming , we must now pay more attention to making parents take on their obligatory roles of being parents and children to let children to be children. Non-Government organizations have in some cases taken over the role of parenting and little wonder that children are dreading to go back home.
    In Kenya we have a new phenomenon of street children in nomadic communities who are now running away into the settled communities for various reasons. Previously, it was a taboo to let your child roam the streets as family and kinship ties were strong.
    I am privileged to be back to support the cause and hope to make meaningful contributions to research to aid evidence based programming .

  4. It shouldn’t be a fight about China and America. Street children and neglected children are everywhere in the world, courtesy the poverty created by the ruthless multinational corporations ruling the “globalized” world. We can only do a little on our personal level and that we should.

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