China: Migrant workers travel home for Lunar New Year


Chinese police keep watch as migrant workers and students buy train tickets home for the annual Chinese New Year holidays, at the Beijing Train Station on Jan. 15, 2012. The world's largest annual migration of people begins in China on Jan. 15 with millions of travellers boarding public transport to journey across the vast country for the Lunar New Year celebrations.


Mark Ralston

China will say goodbye to the rabbit this weekend and welcome back the potentially powerful year of the dragon.

The weekend kicks off the world's largest holiday travel season, but for tens of millions of Chinese migrant workers, it's not always a happy holiday, particularly the getting home part.

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For most migrant workers, the Lunar New Year is their only trip home to visit faraway families, often visiting the children they've left behind with relatives.

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China's newly unveiled online train ticket buying system has created misery and frustration for many, and Chinese media and social media are reporting daily on the perils and problems of migrants trying to get home.

In one of the most extreme examples, a 30-year-old migrant worker in Shenzhen tried to kill himself after failing to obtain a ticket home for the holidays, according to a report in Caijing magazine. The man survived jumping off a highway bridge.

The online ticketing system has made booking train tickets tougher for migrants, rather than easier, many have said. But even those with easy access to computers and the Internet report frequent system crashes and spending hours and days online trying to book spots home.