QINGDAO – The story of a seven-year-old orphan working as a delivery boy in China has ignited a debate about child poverty and access to education in the country.
A video, posted on the Pear Video website, shows the young boy – nicknamed “Little Li” by social media users – delivering parcels in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao.
It has been viewed 18 million times.
Pear Video reports Little Li was orphaned after his father passed away and his mother remarried and lost contact with him. The seven-year-old has been living with his father’s friend since the age of three.
Little Li’s guardian works as a courier and began bringing the boy on his rounds after moving him from a rural area of Shandong province.
The boy now carries out deliveries alone.
The story has been one of the most discussed trends on China’s Twitter-like social media platform Sina Weibo.
The reaction to the video from those online has been overwhelmingly sympathetic with many users concerned for the wellbeing of the boy and wishing Little Li a “better life”.
One user expressed their sadness at the effect the break-up of the seven-year-old’s family had had: “Family problems always affect the children the most.”
While many have conveyed their sadness at Little Li’s situation, a wider debate has begun about the issue of child poverty in China.
Some users decried Little Li’s situation as a “societal tragedy” and pointed to flaws in the country’s social security system.
Others commented on the Chinese government’s policy to eradicate poverty by 2020, calling it “a distant and indefinite future”.
Many raised questions about the acceptability of child labour in Chinese cities and regretted some children are not able to enjoy a happy and carefree childhood.
Some Weibo users took to the platform to urge the local authorities to alleviate Little Li’s situation.
One user commented: “What an awesome little guy, I hope the civil affairs department can help crowdfund to give him a better life.”
Another wrote: “The relevant departments should help this little boy and prosecute his mother.”
As a result of the attention Little Li’s story has received from social media users and media outlets, local authorities have confirmed they are looking into the case, the state-run new website China Daily has reported.
Little Li’s story is the latest of a number of examples of “left behind children” to cause outrage in China.
While China’s state-run media often attempts to control discussions about certain social issues, the plight of poor and abandoned children is a topic that has been widely covered by official outlets, such as China Daily.
Many have drawn parallels between Little Li and the eight-year-old child – nicknamed ‘Ice Boy’ – seen by hundreds of thousands of people in photos, covered in ice after walking 4.5 km (2.8 miles) to school.
A typical comment read: “From the ‘Ice Boy’ to a delivery boy, these are all the children of poor families.”
Speaking to China Daily, an English-language state-run news organisation, the director of a local children’s charity confirmed Little Li was now staying with them and will receive support in accessing education.
Reflecting on the attention social media can shine on the stories of children living in poverty, one user wrote: “Some things that are trending [on Weibo] have a good response, such as the Ice Boy and the Delivery Boy, they’ve received enthusiastic help from users, who have extended their hearts into the mountains [rural regions].” -BBC