01/09/2012, 00.00
CHINA
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Chinese New Year: (almost) ready for the biggest exodus in history

The period that marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon gives the start to over 3.2 billion passengers journey: more than 80 million per day. The government is pessimistic: "Our transport system is not prepared for this." Bad weather makes things worse, with snow and torrential rains.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - Amid bad weather and uncertainties on the situation of roads and railways, today starting the largest internal exodus in human history. In fact, in view of the Lunar New Year, China is preparing to deal with 3.2 billion journeys on its territory. It is about 80 million trips per day, an increase of 9.1% over last year. For the New Year, which begins Jan. 23, the government expects huge difficulties.

Traditionally, New Year's Eve is spent with the family, in the place of origin. This implies the return home of hundreds of millions of migrants who work in big cities or in the richest coastal provinces. The coming Year is the Year of the Dragon. In China, the dragon is the sign of the Chinese Emperor Yang, or the male element, symbol of power and wealth. However, according to Buddhist tradition is not a good sign: the dragon - that helped the Buddha to go to heaven - is larger than life and therefore it often brings excessive measures.

In the Oriental tradition, the Spring Festival is an opportunity to open new business, large or small, close the accounts and paying all debts. In the days following the New Year people go to visit Taoist and Buddhist temples to receive blessings and luck. At the door entrance of homes and shops people hang written phrases wishing "Success in all enterprises," "Great riches," "Every year more and better." The couplets hung in homes speak of wealth, long life, many children, successful career: "May all your wishes be fulfilled" or "Ten thousand generations." Christians usually exhibit phrases taken from the Gospel, conveying the blessings of God.

However, the festive atmosphere is very often marred by social tragedies. The worst is the chain of suicides that accompanies the non-payment of workers: these are victims of dishonest businessmen and government officials, who delay the salary until the last days of the year or refuse to pay. When the migrants do not receive any money, rather than going home empty-handed, they choose to kill themselves.

Transport is also a very serious problem. According to Liu Tienan, deputy director of the Commission for national development and reform, "the huge volume of travellers has exceeded the capacity of our transport system”.

He adds that “The situation is by no means optimistic. The difficulties are unprecedented and the task looks set to be arduous”. Guangzhou and Shanghai, two cities with huge presence of migrants, will face an exodus of 30 million people and 8 million, respectively.

In addition to traffic capacity, there are also grim weather forecasts. According to the National Meteorological Center, bad weather is about to hit the provinces of Guizhou, Hunan and Tibet. In Jiangxi, Hubei and Yunnan icy rain and heavy snowfall are expected.

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