Author: Dr Patrick Fung, General Director of OMF International.
An unexpected challenge – a devastating snow storm:
With high hopes for the Beijing Olympics, China started 2008 facing the worst winter weather in more than 50 years. Snow and ice had crushed houses, brought down power lines and crippled transportation across a wide swath of 10 provinces in central China. Hundreds of thousands became homeless. Millions were affected.
Culture joined forces with climate to compound the suffering. The Lunar New Year season witnesses the greatest migration of people on earth every year. This year, an estimated 10% of China’s population, i.e. 120 million people headed home for the Lunar New Year. Worst hit were the Min Gong – migrant workers – millions of them from the poorer western provinces, employed in the eastern and southern seaboard factories producing ‘Made in China’ goods for the business markets around the world. With train services unpredictable due to atrocious weather and millions on the move, railway stations became crushing masses of humanity.
During this time, as many as 800,000 travellers jammed around Guangzhou (Canton) railway station. They could not make it home for the Lunar New Year family get-together, but their factory dormitories were closed for the holidays. Wen Jiabao, ‘The People’s Premier’, visited the worst hit areas, urging calm, patience and hope, while calling on local leaders and factory owners to do all they could to alleviate the suffering.
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