ANHUI, China -- As the 2-week-long Lunar New Year celebration comes to an end, citizens across China are resuming their usual routines. Yet, the same cannot be said for Li Changxia, whose life has taken a tragic turn after the recent death of her 9-year-old “left-behind” son, Xiao Chuang. Xiao Chuang committed suicide on Jan. 20 upon knowing that he would be spending yet another New Year alone.
Loneliness had always been part of Xiao Chuang’s life. Soon after he was born, his father Li Manguo left home indefinitely in search for a job. This separation pulled Mr. Li apart from his son, not only physically but also emotionally. In 2012, a bitter marriage between Li Manguo and Li Changxia resulted in the couple’s divorce, which left Ms. Li financially independent. Hoping to support her family and to pay off some of the debts from the past, Ms. Li travelled to the southern province of Guangdong as one of China’s 262 million migrant workers. She had always felt guilty for leaving Xiao Chuang behind, but she believed that one day, her son would understand the reason of her departure. Sadly, Ms. Li can never see that day come.
Half a month before Xiao Chuang killed himself, Ms. Li told him on the phone that she was planning to quit her job on Jan. 22, so that she could “be with him at home and not go to work anymore.” Xiao Chuang was not so thrilled, however, when his mother delivered the bad news: she would be unable to come home on time for the New Year.
“Xiao Chuang was devastated by what he had heard,” said his headmaster Yang Linqing in an interview with state news agency Xinhua. “Winter vacation is often the happiest time for left-behind children like Xiao Chuang, because their parents will soon be home to celebrate the New Year.”
On the fateful night of Jan. 20, Xiao Chuang came home with an “F” on his report card—he had just failed his Chinese language exam. Instead of having dinner with the relatives at his house, Xiao Chuang stood alone outside the dining room while finishing his bowl of rice. His eyes were fixed on the bathroom ceiling.
The first person to notice Xiao Chuang’s disappearance was his grandmother. Dashing into the bathroom, she saw a plastic rope being tied to the wooden beam across the ceiling. On the other end of the rope was Xiao Chuang’s dangling body. The 9-year-old boy showed no signs of life when the ambulance arrived.
Three days after the tragic incident, Xiao Chuang’s remains were still lying next to the front door of his house, wrapped in a thick red blanket. Li Manguo was unwilling to bury his son in the ancestral graveyard, because a child would ruin the “Feng Shui”, or natural balance, of that place. In the end, Mr. Li placed Xiao Chuang’s tomb outside the burial ground of a distant relative, leaving him as lonely as he had been when he was alive.
In his fleeting nine years of life, Xiao Chuang seldom shed tears over his struggles and miseries. As strong as he was on the outside, Xiao Chuang was no different from any other children in that his heart craved for love and acceptance. “Since left-behind children lack care from their parents, most of them are reticent about conveying their needs and wishes to others,” explained Liu Chaoying, an expert from the Institute of Developmental Psychology at Beijing Normal University. “In the case of Xiao Chuang, his parents’ divorce and extended absence struck a huge blow on his psychological health.”
Xiao Chuang’s unexpected death highlights the hardship of China’s 61 million children who grow up without one or both of their migrant worker parents. The number of such “left-behind” children accounts for one fifth of the population under 18. Furthermore, research has shown that 80% of left-behind children suffer from some sort of psychological disorder. With regard to this alarming discovery, Lu Shizhen, Vice President of the China Youth and Children Research Association, made the following remarks:
“Many migrant workers think that they have done enough simply by earning money for their families and enrolling their children in prestigious schools. In fact, these are hardly sufficient. Their sons and daughters want a companion, someone who cares for their feelings and who shows them the true meaning of a family…Children need physical comfort, but what matters the most is their emotional and spiritual well-being.”
Back in Xiao Chuang’s house, Li Changxia was having a hard time accepting the truth of her son’s death. Closing her eyes, Ms. Li could still see Xiao Chuang leaping jubilantly before her. Following local traditions, the Li family burned away all of Xiao Chuang’s belongings, including his clothes, books, and toys, as well as the wooden beam from which Xiao Chuang’s body hung. Everything seemed as though Xiao Chuang had never existed before.
Chai Ling, Founder of All Girls Allowed—In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her, said:
Xiao Chuang’s suffering and tragic fate broke our hearts. His story not only reveals the loneliness and despair of the 61 million left-behind children in China, but also reminds us of our own experience of being separated from our parents, whether it be due to military missions, remote job locations, divorces, or consequences of the Cultural Revolution. No matter how old we are and how skilled we might be in masking our pains, the huge holes in our hearts resulting from our longing for unconditional love will remain until they are replaced by the true love from our Heavenly Father.
In the Book of Malachi, God made the following promise before the world entered a dark age that lasted for 400 years: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
And in the Gospel of Luke, an angel said the following about John the Baptist: “He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)
Both of these passages show how much God values parental love. So in remembrance of Xiao Chuang’s death, we invite you to do two things: Love your children in the way God wants you to, and say a prayer for God to raise up churches in China to love the 61 million left-behind children!
All Girls Allowed (http://www.allgirlsallowed.org) was founded by Chai Ling in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and revealing the injustice of the One-Child Policy. “In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her.”