Students to book rooms for migrants during Qixi Festival

Updated: 2012-08-20 07:44

By An Baijie (China Daily)

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A dozen college students in Henan province plan to book 200 hotel rooms in which migrant workers' families can reunite during the Qixi Festival, which falls on Thursday.

Students to book rooms for migrants during Qixi Festival 

Wang Xuhui, a sophomore at Zhengzhou Jiaotong University who initiated the plan, said on Sunday that 28 migrant worker couples have applied for the free hotel service since the plan was publicized on the Internet three days ago.

Qixi Festival, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh month on the Chinese lunar calendar, is referred to as China's Valentines Day. It is based on a legendary love story in which a separated couple have their annual reunion through a temporary bridge over the Milky Way on this day.

The practice is aimed at drawing public attention to the welfare of migrant workers, who have made a great contribution to the country's rapid urbanization, Wang said.

"We experienced the migrant workers' life during the summer holiday, when we visited some construction sites as interns," Wang said. "We feel deep sympathy toward the new generation (a term largely used for the post-1990 generation) of migrant workers, who often lead lives separated from their beloved."

He advertised the free hotel rooms on the Internet on Aug 16 along with his cell phone number.

"Migrant workers have built lots of skyscrapers, roads and bridges for our cities, yet they live in simple huts or even tents," Wang wrote in the post.

Twelve volunteers promised to donate their savings - about 12,000 yuan ($1,887) - that they earned by doing part-time jobs, to pay for 200 hotel rooms for migrant worker couples on Thursday night.

Fu Yunpeng, Wang's co-initiator of the romantic gesture, said the migrant workers were not as enthusiastic as they expected toward their free hotel room service.

Only five migrant workers had called about the service as of Saturday morning, and the volunteers had to go to construction sites on Sunday to tell the migrant workers about the plan in person.

"Many migrant workers didn't trust us when we were trying to explain the activity to them," he said. "They suspected that we were cheaters."

With the help of some of the managers of the construction sites, Fu and the other volunteers persuaded 23 migrant workers from eight construction sites to accept the free hotel room service.

"It's understandable that some of the migrant workers did not trust us," he said. "They have encountered too much unfairness and disrespect, and as a result, when they were respected in such a manner, they would not believe it was true."

Wu Fei, a migrant worker in Zhengzhou who refused the invitation of free hotel room service, said his wife works in Kaifeng and they do not have the time to get together for Qixi Festival.

"If my wife comes here to see me, we will have to pay more than 100 yuan on a bus ticket, food, and so on," he said. "We'd rather save the money for some other daily uses."

Wang Xuhui said that he has received some critical phone calls and text messages that questioned his motives.

"Some people criticized me by saying that I was using my parents' money to gain personal fame," he said. "The money for the hotel room was earned by the volunteers, and what we want is not fame, but society's respect toward migrant workers."

A hotel in Zhengzhou has promised to provide 15 rooms free of charge as well as free dinners for the migrant workers on Thursday night, Wang said. "We are still bargaining with some other hotels to ask for a discount on the room prices," he said.

Liu Yushan, 33, a migrant worker from Zhumadian, a city located 230 km from Zhengzhou, said he expected to spend Qixi Festival with his wife and daughter in a hotel room provided by the volunteers.

"We have to live in the tents of the construction site, the living conditions are bad, with neither air conditioners nor comfortable beds," Liu said.