Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Chinese New Year Travel Frenzy/ Harsher Punishments for One-Child Policy Violation

Chinese New Year Travel Frenzy Again

Crowds buying train tickes at Beijing West Station/China News Service

It is again the time for the annual national ritual of crazy Chinese New Year travel. This year’s “Spring Festival Travel” season started on Saturday and will end on March 14, almost one month after the Chinese New Year.

Every year around this time, millions of people, mostly rural residents seeking a better living in cities, pack up and flood toward railways, highways, even airports lately, to go back to their hometowns for family gathering, practicing a thousands-of-years-old tradition.

As China's economy grows and living standard increases, as well as many young people seek career in large cities away from hometown, the festival has become less about having new clothes and nice food as it used to be, but more about reconnecting family members and strengthening personal bonds that have been largely weakened by a more migrating and aggressive society. At the same time, China’s transportation system faces more pressure.

No matter how much the meaning and celebration of the festival has changed over the past decades, one thing seems to have stayed, and that is railway as the major holiday transportation.

In recent years, over one hundred million people were transported every year by train from cities to villages or other cities and back. The mast majority of the travelers, migrant workers, college students and career beginners, still can not afford air fare, although air traffic during the festival season has been increasing. To them, travel by train is fast enough and cheap enough.

This year, a lot of talks have been surrounded a new policy: for the first time in six years, China’s railway authorities would not increase train fare during the holiday season.

Railways in China are almost all owned and run by the government. In an attempt to alleviate the pressure on railway during the holiday season, the authorities started to increase train fare in 2000 and kept doing so in the following years. Despite the price hike, the amount of holiday travelers did not decrease. Last year, it reached a record high of 149 million, according to China Youth Daily.

Last month, the authorities announced that the annual train fare increase was scraped this year.

Many people, including National People’s Congress representatives had advocated for abolishing the routine price raise. Now that the central government is striving to establish a harmonious society and showing more benign toward migrant workers, the end to the price hike seems to make sense.

The Rich and Famous Facing Harsher Punishments for One-Child Policy Violation

Authorities in Zhejiang announced on Wednesday that they will start to levy high fees on celebrities and high income people who violate the one-child policy. For those who do not care about paying such money and continue to have more than one child, the authorities will expose them to the public, Xinhua reported.

It has been an open secret in China that rich people, including some celebrities, can have more than one child by paying “social caring fee” to authorities. The public has recently expressed displeasure toward the issue by calling it unfair in a survey.

Mr. Zhang Weiqing, director of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, also said in Guangzhou earlier last month that rich and famous people breaching the one-child limitation had “very bad social influence.”

Zhejiang provincial officials said they have paid much attention to family plan violations among those rich and famous, who are usually influential “public figures” and should have been role models of obeying the law.

As a matter of fact, exchanging money for rights have become one of the unfairness much loathed by Chinese people, the mast majority of which are still not rich while a small number of people have obtained enormous amount of fortune by means sometimes illegal. As one of the most affluent provinces in China, Zhejiang may have set a good example of government’s efforts for social fairness.

----by Josie Liu

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