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"China's most hardworking man based on contact tracing records"
Mr. Yue labored in ungodly hours to look for missing son
This is a full translation of THE story that gripped Chinese social media on Thursday, January 20, 2022.
Sourced from the official WeChat blog of 中国新闻周刊 China Newsweek, a publication under China News Service
Conversation with "China's most hardworking man based on contact tracing records": He came to Beijing to look for his son, worked odd gigs in early hours to care for family
Father paralyzed, mom’s arm broken
Provides for a family of six, under great life pressure
During his days in Beijing, the jobs he had
Usually carries bags of sand/cement or
Moves construction waste to designated garbage stations
He set out in the early hours of the morning, and when it was finished, it was dawn.
By 中国新闻周刊 China Newsweek reporter/ 赵翔 Zhao Xiang
On January 18th, a person with a positive nucleic acid test for Covid-19 was found in Chaoyang District, Beijing. After further examination and expert consultation, he was diagnosed as having an asymptomatic infection in Covid-19.
On January 19th, at Beijing municipality’s 269th Covid-19 press conference epidemic prevention and control, Yang Beibei, deputy governor of Chaoyang District, said that the person lived at No.558 石各庄 Shigezhuang Village, 平房乡Pingfang Township, Chaoyang District, and is mainly engaged in the manually moving decoration materials. The contact tracing of the person showed that during the 18 days from January 1st to January 18th, his work scope covers Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chaoyang, Haidian, Shunyi, and other Districts, and he worked odd jobs in more than 20 different places in the early hours of the morning for many days. Based on this, some Chinese netizens referred to the person as "the hardest-working Chinese according to contact tracing".
The person, surnamed Yue, was born in 1978. He told 中国新闻周刊 China Newsweek that he used to work as a crew member on a fishing boat in Weihai, Shandong Province. On August 12th, 2020, his eldest son went missing. Because his son worked as a kitchen helper in Beijing, he came to Beijing to look for him. Before that, in order to find his son, he had been to Shandong, Henan, Hebei, Tianjin, and other places. Everywhere, while looking for his son, he worked odd jobs to make ends meet.
The village head of Yue's hometown in Henan told China Newsweek that Yue's family condition was "relatively ordinary". In his hometown, Yue's father was paralyzed in bed, and his mother recently broke her arm. His wife and youngest son are currently in Weihai, Shandong Province. His wife's income is meager and his youngest son is still in junior high school. Therefore, his life is under pressure.
Yue's wife told China Newsweek that when her husband went out to look for the eldest son, she took care of her youngest son in Weihai. Her main job at ordinary times was to dry kelp/seaweed for others and could earn 100 yuan [15.77 US dollars] per day.
Yue said that these days in Beijing, he mainly contacted decoration contractors through some WeChat groups dedicated to odd jobs, and all the gigs he got were carrying bags of sand and cement or [mannualy] transporting construction waste to the designated garbage station. Because of the restrictions on the traffic of construction vehicles in Beijing during the day, he set out in the early hours of the morning and usually finished his gigs before dawn. To save money, he lived in a room of about 10 square meters in 石各庄 Shigezhuang Village at the rent of 700 yuan [110 US dollars] per month. One of Yue's fellow villagers in Henan told China Newsweek that Shigezhuang housed many of their fellow villagers, most of whom were engaged in manually handling construction waste: "They all worked in the early hours of the morning, which was very hard and tiring".
The following is a conversation between China Newsweek and Yue on the evening of January 19th.
China Newsweek: Where are you now? What's the situation?
Yue: I am being treated in Beijing Ditan Hospital. Yesterday (January 18th) and today (January 19th) morning, I had a blood test, urine test, and nucleic acid test, all of which were positive.
A few days ago, my body temperature was 36.8 degrees Celsius [98.24 degrees Fahrenheit];. Today (January 19th), it was 36.8 degrees Celsius to 38 degrees Celsius [100.4 degrees Fahrenheit] in the afternoon. I had a high fever and a headache. I took some medicine at night. Now the temperature is down and not so high, and I have a little headache.
China Newsweek: Where do you usually live in Beijing?
Yue: The south gate of Shigezhuang, a small room rented for 700 yuan, about 10 square meters. Rural environment. As long as it doesn't leak rain, one can sleep in it.
China Newsweek: What do you usually do?
Yue: I have a WeChat group from an online recruitment platform. There are many bosses in it. They will make demands, such as hundreds of bags of sand and cement. I will ask about the payment. If it is appropriate, they will come to Shigezhuang to pick me up. Or I'll send my phone number to the group, and they'll call me if they have a gig.
Generally, a bag of cement or sand is one yuan [16 U.S. cents] apiece if you don't go upstairs. If you go upstairs, there is more money, such as 3 yuan apiece for the 3rd floor and 4 yuan apiece for the 4th floor. A bag of sand is 30 kilograms and a bag of cement is 50 kilograms. Or it would be construction waste, and I'll take it to the truck, clean it up, and eventually send it to the garbage station that collects construction waste.
Sometimes, if I did a good job, the boss and I would add each other on WeChat, and they would seek me when they need someone. If I did a bad job, it's face-to-face payment and no more contact. Recently, I have worked for more than 20 bosses.
This kind of job is full of uncertainties. Sometimes there is no such gig when it rains, or when "the higher-up" came for an inspection.
China Newsweek: Why do you always work at night?
Yue: I always do these odd jobs in the middle of the night. Because big trucks that are used to pull building materials and construction waste are not allowed to enter the city [of Beijing] during the day. If the big trucks came in the day, the drivers would lose points [every clean Chinese driving license has 12 points per year] or face fines. They can only enter the city after eleven o'clock at night.
So I went to work at eleven o'clock at night, came back at 4: 30 the next morning, and do some work during the day.
All I did is manual labor, and I can earn 200 yuan [31.54 US dollars] to 300 yuan [47.31 US dollars] at a time. I slept in the morning, usually for four or five hours, and then went out to find a job at noon, so that I could earn more.
Generally, the boss will send me back to Shigezhuang after work. They took care of my breakfast by giving me 10 yuan [1.58 US dollars]. I could (use that money to) buy three steamed buns and a bowl of porridge. I ate noodles at home at noon.
China Newsweek: What did you do in the past?
Yue: I'm from Henan (Province). I've lived in Weihai for more than ten years. I could earn 50,000 yuan [7,885 US dollars] a year as a sailor on a boat. I came to Beijing to look for my son.
China Newsweek: When did you come to Beijing?
Yue: In the spring of 2021, I came to work odd jobs in Beijing. On September 1st, I was able to go out to sea in Weihai. I worked in Weihai for two months and took a rest during the fishing moratorium. On November 19th, I went back to Beijing to continue to work odd jobs. Fifteen days after I came to Beijing, my mother broke her arm. My father was paralyzed in bed. And they were left unattended. I went back to my hometown, took care them for half a month, and went back to Beijing.
This time I stayed in Beijing for more than 40 days, and I traveled all over Beijing's East Fifth Ring Road and South Fifth Ring Road, earning more than 10,000 yuan [1,577 US dollars].
China Newsweek: Why are you working so hard?
Yue: I am a horse in the Chinese zodiac. I was born in 1978. I needed to raise my youngest son, who is 12 years old and in the sixth grade. My wife looks after him and dries kelp/seaweed for other people, earning 10,000 yuan [1,577 US dollars] a year. My father was paralyzed, my mother broke her arm, and it cost more than 10,000 yuan to treat her. They couldn't take care of themselves. I'm the only one who can go out to work.
It cost more than 10,000 yuan to take care of my family. I have to take care of six people by myself. I give my parents about 2,000 yuan [315 US dollars] a month. My father is 76 years old and my mother is 66 years old. They haven't been receiving the [Chinese government’s] subsistence allowance. They have heart disease, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. Medicine costs a lot of money.
China Newsweek: Look at your contact tracing information, on January 17th, you went to the post office to mail a letter. What letter did you send?
Yue: A petition letter. My family lives in 山东威海荣成市成山镇 Chengshan Town, Rongcheng [County-level] City [in China, a county is one level lower than a city], Weihai City, Shandong Province, and my eldest son worked in a food factory 50 kilometers away from home. On August 12th, 2020, he said that his stomach was uncomfortable, so he had to go home to find his mother. The director of the food factory sent him to the bus stop. Then he went missing - he suddenly disappeared and didn't get on the bus. I was still fishing at sea. On the 15th of that month, I quickly went home to look for him. I called the police at the local police station and wanted them to locate my eldest son's mobile phone and access video surveillance. They said that this [my eldest son] was an adult, so they couldn’t [didn’t have the legal option to] locate the mobile phone. After two or three days, my eldest son's mobile phone would run out of battery. As for the video surveillance, they said that they could only use that to look for cars but not people. So they didn’t access the video surveillance. It took three months to formally register the case.
Later, I went to Weihai Public Security Bureau, which pushed the case back to Rongcheng Public Security Bureau. I went to the Public Security Department of Shandong Province and to Beijing. I think, in the early days when my eldest son just went missing, if the police could have located him/his mobile phone, he could have been found. There is no hope now. At that time, my wife cried at the gate of the police station for two days, and they turned a deaf ear to it. The police chief also said harsh words.
China Newsweek: Where have you been looking for your eldest son?
Yue: Tianjin, Anyang city of Henan, Hengshui city of Hebei, Taian city, Weihai city, Jinan city, Rushan county-level city, etc. I went to more than ten cities. There wasn’t any information. When I got to those places, I slept in various banks’ rooms housing automatic teller machines [those rooms typically remain open 24/7 to the public]. It was hot and there were many mosquitoes. If I didn’t have money, I would work locally. If I earned enough money, I would go to other cities.
I have been to [the Chinese government-operated] relief stations everywhere. There was a director of a relief station who sympathized with me and gave me a box of instant noodles and mineralized water.
My eldest son used to work in Beijing's East Fifth Ring Road as a kitchen helper, which is why I came to Beijing. I asked around restaurants big and small in Beijing if there was this person who was working as a kitchen helper, and now I have asked dozens of them.
I suspect that he hasn't gone far. The police said that he didn't take the train or the bus, and it was estimated that he was/is still in Rongcheng.
I also asked in the hospital morgues. On October 12th, 2021, they [not clear who] saw me were petitioning, and told me that a corpse was of my eldest son, and asked me to go to Rongcheng Second Hospital to identify the corpse. I saw that man, whose face was hard to see but fat and round. My son is 1.74 meters tall, thin, and has a long face. I don't think that was my son. I asked to test the bones of the body, but they weren’t willing to do that. They initially said the test would be done at Weihai Public Security Bureau which would take dozens of days. Later, it was said that the forensic doctor was on a business trip. After half a month, they/he [unclear] called me and said don't bother them/him anymore.
My wife couldn't stop crying when she heard that our eldest son was dead. I don't believe that corpse was my son.
When this dead body was first discovered, I asked the police station, and they said it was not my eldest son. As soon as I began petitioning, they said it was my eldest son in order to close the case.
My eldest son was 19 when he was lost, and he is 21 this year. He dropped out of school in Grade 8. He was very introverted and not very clever. But he was very loyal and honest. I think he was cheated [led astray by some people with lies] away.
China Newsweek: On January 18th, you took the bullet train from Beijing South Railway Station to Weihai. Were you going home?
Yue: I have been working for a year but couldn’t find my eldest son. The COVID-19 situation was getting tense, so I wanted to go back. On January 17th, I sent the petition letter, did a nucleic acid test [for COVID-19] in the afternoon, and took the No.1085 train from Beijing to Weihai the next morning. The train stopped before it started. The disease control center found that my nucleic acid was abnormal, called me, and said I couldn't leave, so I took my luggage out of the train, waited, and was then transferred to Ditan hospital for isolation and medical treatment.
Now, the 414 yuan [65 US dollars] I paid for the train ticket has not been refunded. A staff member of Beijing Chaoyang District CDC wanted to give me the money (414 yuan), but I said I couldn't take your [personal] money. In the past two days, my mobile service was discontinued because the account ran out of money, and the Chaoyang CDC paid 150 yuan to restore my mobile service. They were nice to me.
I don't feel sorry for myself either. I just work hard. I don't steal or rob. I rely on my own strength and my own hands to earn some money and look for my eldest son. It was all just for living and taking care of this family.
I've spent tens of thousands of yuan looking for my eldest son so far. All my jobs were odd gigs. When I earned money, I went to look for my child. When I ran out of money, I resumed working odd gigs. I have been working hard - just to get find my child. I work hard and even if I exhaust my life in it, I will get my child back.