This news story stayed with us over the years. On August 1, 2004, Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley reported on a peasant boy and student named Zheng Qingming in a NY Times article titled Amid China's Boom, No Helping Hand for Young Qingming.
As written by Mr. Kahn and Mr. Yardley:
"He wanted to attend college. But to do so meant taking the annual college entrance examination. On the humid morning of June 4, three days before the exam, Qingming's teacher repeated a common refrain: he had to pay his last $80 in fees or he would not be allowed to take the test. Qingming stood before his classmates, his shame overtaken by anger.
"I do not have the money," he said slowly, according to several teachers who described the events that morning. But his teacher and the system would not budge.
A few hours later, Qingming, 18 years old, stepped in front of an approaching locomotive. The train, like China's roaring economy, was an express."
. . . . . . . .
"The matter came to a climax on June 4, three days before the college entrance exam, teachers and classmates said.
Mr. Zhang called Qingming to his desk. As classmates listened, Mr. Zhang insisted, again, that Qingming must pay his $80 debt. Otherwise, the school would withhold his license to take the exam, effectively ending his hopes of attending college.
Qingming said flatly that he had no money. One classmate stood up and volunteered to sell blood to help Qingming.
"I don't care if you sell a life," Mr. Zhang responded, according to teachers who looked into the incident later. "He pays the fees or he doesn't take the test." ...
... Just after 9:30 that night, he (Qingming) came back (to the railroad depot) and stood his ground. The train that crushed him was No. 1006, the Chongqing-to-Beijing express. His jacket, containing one arm and his identification card, was found 30 yards from his body."
. . . . . . . .
"All he (Mr. Zheng, the grandfather) has left now to remember the grandson he once carried on his back is a stack of workbooks - trigonometry, politics, history. Mr. Zheng does not recognize enough Chinese characters to read them. But he keeps the books as memorials.
One is Qingming's scrapbook. Near the end, Qingming pasted in a magazine article about a retarded farm girl. She was raped, then abandoned by her relatives for the shame she inflicted on them. In the margins of the text, Qingming scribbled his thoughts: "We must extend our helping hand to any innocent underdog. Only by so doing can that person find a footing in society."