[Names updated] The little match boys: Tragedy in modern China

Alia | November 19th, 2012 - 11:26 pm

[Update] The five boys were Tao Zhongjin (12 years old), Tao Zhonghong (11 years old), Tao Zhong (12 years old), Tao Bo (9 years old) and Tao Zhonglin (13 years old). They were sons of 3 brothers. and they themselves were brothers and cousins. The five left home on November 5 and never came back since. According to their families, the boys often went out a few days without noticing family members. 4 out of the 5 boys were school drop outs. 8 local officials, including 2 school headmasters, were removed from their posts as a result.

Most terribly cold it was; it rained, and was nearly quite dark, and evening – the evening of a November Thursday  In this cold and darkness there went along the street 5 poor little boys, soaked and quivering. When they were younger, they were full of hope; but what was the good of that? They were born into a booming China, one that has been rising to one of the world’s greatest powers; so powerful was it; but these poor little things lost their dreams as they wandered around on alien lands, because their country has rolled too dreadfully fast.

They trembled with cold and hunger – a very picture of sorrow, these poor little things!

The drops of rain soaked their clothes, which weren’t thick enough to shield cold anyway. From afar the street the trash bin was gleaming, and it looked so warmly of a possible shelter, for you know it was a cold rainy November night in 2012; yes, in 2012.

In the trash bin on the road side, they seated themselves down and cowered together, head to head and toe to toe, but they grew colder and colder, and to go home they did not venture, for they has no place to call home.

Their little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! A match might afford them a world of comfort, if they only can find a place to set a small fire, draw the match against the trash bin wall, and warm their fingers by it. They found one. “Rischt!” how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle, as they held their hands over it: it was a wonderful light. The fire burned with such blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little boys had already stretched out their feet to warm them too; but the small flame went out: they has only the remains of the burnt-out match in their hands.

They rubbed another against the trash bin wall; it burnt brightly, and where the light fell on the trash bin wall, there the wall became the wall of a cozy bedroom for children. In the beds were five brothers, in-between the beds was their mom who was reading tales of bravery and adventure. The mom was ready to kiss every of them a good night when – the match went out and nothing but the filthy trash bin was left around. They lighted another match. Now there they were sitting in a heated classroom: it was clean and equipped with the best teaching tools and technologies that they had seen in TV.

Lighting in the classroom was bright as daylight. The little boys stretched out their hands towards the books when – the match went out. The lighting in the classroom rose higher and higher, filling the sealed trash bin with carbon monoxide.

They rubbed the whole bundle of matched quickly against the trash bin wall, for they wanted to be quite sure of keeping their dreams stay. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day. Never formerly has they feel so secure. They held each other in arms, and all flew in the brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety – they were with God.

But in the trash bin, at the cold hour of dawn, sat five poor boys, with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against each other – poisoned by carbon monoxide to death on a Thursday night in November, 2012. Stiff and stark sat the boys there with their little pot, in which they set fire. “They wanted to warm themselves,” people said. No one has the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things they had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with their companionship to each other, they had entered on the joys of a new life.

Many people in China have wished that the story above was only a story. On the morning of Nov. 16, 5 little boys ranged from about 8 years old to 13 years old were found dead in a trash bin on the road side in the city of Bijie, Guizhou. There were signs of fired using charcoal in the trash bin and initial investigations showed that the boys were died of carbon monoxide poisoning – the night before was a cold rainy winter night with temperatures as low as 6 °C (42 °F).

So far, no one knows whether they are homeless or kids running away from home. The only fact we know about these boys is that they were children of 3 brothers and all related. The 3 brothers, guess what, are migrant workers currently laboring in other parts of China.

The trash bin is located in a relatively remote district of Bijie. Residents in the area said they’ve seen these boys living in a tent in a nearby construction site. Some even said they’ve seen these boys picking up thrown-away food and vegetables in a nearby market. Yet no one bothered to alarm the police about 5 wandering-around boys, not even the police themselves – the district office is less than 100 meters away from the trash bin…

A lot of people asked, no matter homeless or not, why aren’t these boys in school? A few statistics recently released may have an answer.  According to a report by the 21st Century Education Research Center, 63 primary schools, 30 educational outlets and 3 middle schools have disappeared in rural China per day between 2000 and 2010. That is 4 schools disappeared per hour in rural areas.  Drop-out rates in China’s primary schools increased 37% in 3 years from 5.99% in 2008 to 8.22% in 2011. In another report, students at a school for migrant workers’ children were asked to share their career dreams. While one-graders said they’d love to be scientists, dances and artists when they grow up, five-graders would rather be beer salesmen, security staff or cleaners.

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3 Responses to “[Names updated] The little match boys: Tragedy in modern China”

  1. [...] Alia | December 20th, 2012 – 7:24 am TweetAbout a month ago, 5 boy aged 9 to 13 were found dead after burning charcoal for warmth in a road-side dumpster in the city of Bijie, Guizhou [...]

  2. [...] etc. Just this past November, 5 left-behind boys were found dead in a street-side dumpster in Guizhou after burning charcoal for [...]

  3. [...] Offbeat China, which has been on a heck of a roll as of late, tells us that the boys were Tao Zhongjin (12 years old), Tao Zhonghong (11 years old), Tao Zhong (12 years old), Tao Bo (9 years old) and Tao Zhonglin (13 years old), the sons of three brothers. “The five left home on November 5 and never came back since. According to their families, the boys often went out a few days without noticing family members. 4 out of the 5 boys were school drop outs. 8 local officials, including 2 school headmasters, were removed from their posts as a result.” [...]

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