Scattered Sand: The Story of China's Rural Migrants

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By Hsiao-Hung Pai

Every year, two hundred million staff from China’s giant rural inside go back and forth among towns and provinces looking for employment: the most important human migration in background. This crucial military of labour money owed for half China’s GDP, yet is an unorganized workforce—’scattered sand’, in chinese language parlance—and the main marginalized and impoverished personnel within the country. 

For years, the award-winning journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai traveled throughout China vacationing labourers on Olympic building websites, within the coal mines and brick kilns of the Yellow River sector, and on the factories of the Pearl River Delta. She witnessed the end result of the 2009 riots within the Muslim province of Xinjiang; observed cities in rubble greater than a 12 months after the significant earthquake in Sichuan; and used to be reunited with long-lost family, estranged considering her mother’s kin fled for Taiwan throughout the Civil struggle. Scattered Sand is the results of her travels: a finely wrought portrait of these left at the back of through China’s dramatic social and fiscal advances.

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As i used to be scribbling furiously, attempting to take down Xue’s speech, a small stone hit me at the facet of my head. a guy shouted on the crowd from a distance, ‘Do no longer consult her! cease speaking to her! She is a undercover agent! A secret agent! ’ Rubbing my head in surprise, I regarded round. the fellow was once in his thirties, medium top, skinny, donning a white T-shirt. used to be he a plainclothes police officer? or just a nationalist passer-by? I had no notion. however the crowd of staff was once disturbed through his attack and his ‘warning’. They started to whisper. the fellow didn’t quit. ‘Spy! undercover agent! leave! ’ he endured to shout. I needed to say anything – all this used to be occurring simply because i used to be there – so I defended the crowd’s correct to stay. ‘This is a public area, and we're staying the following to talk,’ I stated. each person round me clapped and cheered. It was once visible that they desired to proceed telling their tales. The stone-thrower seemed embarrassed and quick left the scene. Later that day, I went to the North Station, a smaller labour industry the place rural activity seekers assemble. whilst I received there, i realized many Yi ready simply open air. a few of them may be individual via their conventional vibrant costumes – the ladies wore embroidered clothes, the necklines stitched with silver plant life. a few have been sitting on their baggage, watching for the following educate domestic. Others have been placing round for task bargains from neighborhood recruiters, even though there didn’t appear to be a lot motion. the single noticeable placards marketed an ‘earwax remover’ and a ‘blind masseur’ who played their providers within the alleyway subsequent to the station. I additionally spotted the presence of the police once I entered the station. They looked to be patrolling the world round it too. Their presence made the ambience diversified from different labour markets – the activity seekers appeared uncomfortable and seemed round regularly to monitor the circulation of the officials. I questioned what had made North Station a public-security factor. It appeared as insignificant as millions of alternative small stations round the state. Then I observed that the officials’ eyes have been fastened at the Yi staff. Ten mins later, I observed police officers, batons in hand, chase a girl in conventional dress and her baby out of a highway café. the lady had it sounds as if been having lunch together with her baby whilst the officials stormed in, shouting ‘Get out! Get out! ’ The apprehensive girl spoke a number of phrases in Yi language, a Tibeto-Burman version, yet didn't dare withstand the order. She took her baby and fled the station zone. The police had made no try and seek or arrest her. It appeared they only desired to frighten her. I went as much as the officials and requested what the chase was once approximately. They overlooked me and walked away. i used to be instructed via different onlookers that this occurred forever. yet how did they justify it? ‘They say Yi have a foul acceptance for dealing medicines. each Yi individual is a suspect,’ one guy acknowledged. I witnessed an identical police surveillance and harassment on the South Station, additionally a labour industry frequented by way of Yi citizens from rural parts. while I visited, Yi activity seekers had accrued to attend for the neighborhood recruiters.

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