Migrant workers stranded in Shanghai walked for dozens of kilometers and camped out at the railway station, trying to hurry home to harvest wheat

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Abstract: in mid May, with the gradual liberalization of public transport, Shanghai, with more than 9 million migrant population, welcomed the first wave of homecoming. According to Caixin, the daily average number of people leaving Shanghai at Shanghai Hongqiao Station has exceeded 10000. In order to go home, some people rode 50 kilometers of bicycles, while others walked more than 20 kilometers until they were “numb and unconscious”. Outside Hongqiao Railway Station, a group of campers also gathered. They set up tents and hid in ATMs. Some even slept directly on the lawn and under the overpass. They are all migrant workers. They have been starved for two months in Shanghai and have also faced the risk of infection. Now, they have only one goal: to go home.
By lixiaofang, edited by caijiaxin, Wang Shanhu
Huangpu River, sunset
With two steamed buns and half a bottle of leftover old godmother, Wen Fei, 27, was determined to leave Shanghai. There is not much luggage. A black 20 inch suitcase and a black backpack can be tied to the shared bicycle basket – he plans to ride nearly 50 kilometers to the railway station.
On the map, from his hotel in Fengxian District to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, there is only a short blue curve, like a capital “L”. In February this year, he went on a business trip from Hangzhou to Shanghai and stayed in the hotel along this “L”. The project he was responsible for was supposed to end at the end of March. As a result, he was trapped in the hotel because of the epidemic and lived on a box of instant noodles for nearly a month.
In the middle of May, some areas in Shanghai were gradually liberalized, and the number of trains in Hongqiao Railway Station increased, but it was limited. The ticket grabbing is the same as the original food grabbing. Wen Fei only managed to get a ticket on May 19 after spending half a month on 12306. Public transport has not yet been fully restored. It is not uncommon for conscientious private car drivers to charge hundreds of yuan and offer thousands of yuan. Wen Fei is not willing to spend more money. He has paid the hotel expenses in the past two months by himself. 200 yuan a day is too much. He saw that in the videos and strategies circulated on the Internet, the most common way for stranded people to leave Shanghai is to ride shared bicycles or walk.

On the map, the distance from the hotel to Hongqiao Railway Station.
The day of departure was 4 p.m. on May 18. Wen Fei stepped out of the hotel for the first time in two months. There are weeds in the cracks of the stone brick road. There are almost no people and no cars. Wen Fei rode awkwardly at first. He put a large suitcase on the basket and had to hold the front of the car and the suitcase at the same time when he turned the corner. The suitcase didn’t hold steady and fell down directly, marking a blood mark on his right leg.
After more than an hour, he crossed the Huangpu River, rested on the bridge for a while, stared at the river in a daze, and his legs began to ache faintly. At every intersection he passed later, he saw that “either railings are around or someone is guarding. Anyway, it is inconvenient for everyone to travel”. He couldn’t hold back his emotion, and tears burst out in an instant. He rarely cried. He was locked up in a hotel for two months and lived with instant noodles. Because the hotel had to be moved out because it was requisitioned as a quarantine point, he was rushed around. He never cried.
But at that moment, Wen Fei said that he felt wronged, both for his own experience and for the city.
Sealed in the hotel for a long time, he sometimes can not feel the passage of time. At first, a nearby restaurant could barely provide food for the hotel. Later, due to the shortage of materials, the restaurant could not continue. Wen Fei could only reduce three meals a day to two. Later, it became one meal a day.
He kept watching the news every day to see if the number of new cases in Shanghai had dropped and when the whole city would reopen. This became the basis and hope for him to measure the return of normal life, “but I haven’t seen the news I want to see.” But he always thought that people outside the hotel would live better than him. “They have community management. You can take out door strips behind them.” When he got to the road, he found that “so many people in Shanghai are the same as me.”
In the direction of Hongqiao Railway Station, there is always a sunset hanging on the horizon. But the weather is not good, the clouds are thick and muddy, and the sun is as fuzzy as a yellow light bulb. Wen Fei took a photo and posted it on the social platform. Someone commented, “the sun is really like dawn.” Wen Fei had no spare time to think about whether it was like dawn. After 30 kilometers, his legs began to tremble uncontrollably, his lumbar spine was painful, and the “L” on the map was like a life hook. He put almost all his willpower on cycling. He only mechanically pedaled the wheels with his head buried. He only saw this way.
To some extent, those who can be on the road at the moment are already lucky. On May 19, 25-year-old fitness coach Yang Xiao also chose to ride a bike to the station. On the way, the navigation made a mistake, and he rode under an overpass by mistake. There are sevenoreight trucks parked under the bridge. A dozen truck drivers are cooking potatoes under the bridge. There is no rice. There are some snacks scattered around. Yang Xiao judged that these truck drivers had been in the bridge cave for more than half a month. “They were very embarrassed. Their hair looked like they hadn’t washed for many days. The ground was full of domestic garbage.”
Yangxiao noticed that their license plate numbers were from Anhui. Two of their cars were hung with red banners, which read “materials for Shanghai aid”, and their doors were pasted with a seal, “they seemed unable to get out, so they stayed there.”
The truck drivers and Yang Xiao, who entered the bridge by mistake, looked at each other for a while. “When I walked over, they all stared at me. I was also looking at them. I just saw that their eyes were very desperate, really desperate.” The young man repeated sadly on the phone, “I don’t think they should be treated like this. They shouldn’t be treated like this.”
But he couldn’t do anything, so he had to ride again and continue to set off towards Hongqiao Railway Station a few kilometers away.

A man walking to Hongqiao Railway Station carrying his luggage

Qixin Road, the hometown’s wheat is ripe

There is no shortage of people on the way to Hongqiao Railway Station. Especially Qixin Road leading to the station. This road connects the north and south ends of Minhang District, the south end is Maqiao and Wujing Town where migrant workers gather, and the north is Hongqiao Railway Station. All the way to the north, from time to time, you can see the figure of “passenger”. Some people drag their suitcases along the road, while others ride bicycles with one hand and hold the suitcases with the other. At the beginning, I saw them once every tens or hundreds of meters. The closer to the north end, the denser they were, and I could see one every two or three meters.

Wen Fei met eight migrant workers. They carried them on their shoulders, carried them in their hands, and even carried the quilts behind them. Wen Fei was surprised that they didn’t even ride shared bicycles. Judging by their posture, they wanted to walk nearly 50 kilometers from Fengxian District and all the way to Hongqiao Railway Station.

It was only after a conversation that I found out that these 4- and 50-year-old migrant workers came from Xinyang, Henan Province, and went to Shanghai to work during the slack season to subsidize their families. They told Wenfei that summer was coming, and the wheat in their hometown was already ripe, and they were in a hurry to go home to harvest the wheat.

Wen Fei was sad to hear it, “It takes me four hours to ride a bicycle, and it would take them not a day to walk there.” The villagers said that they had no choice but to scan the code to unlock the shared bicycle, so they could only use the most primitive method to walk there. . Wen Fei took their mobile phones to help scan the code to unlock the shared bicycles one by one. One of the uncles did not even have Alipay installed on his mobile phone, so he helped to download the software and scan a shared bicycle.

Most of these people who are eager to leave Shanghai are driven to a dead end by life. A 23-year-old boy encountered an epidemic not long after resigning from an Internet company and was placed under lockdown at home. He described, “If you don’t stay at home and don’t have a job, your mentality is very broken.” The entertainer who was unemployed for two months could not pay rent of more than 3,000 yuan. He rode a bicycle for nearly 3 hours and then walked away. It took more than an hour to arrive at Hongqiao Railway Station, and my legs were no longer bent. “The feeling that you might be kneeling on the ground if you don’t pay attention.”

The fitness coach Xiaoli was locked up after working in Shanghai for a month. The money on hand was almost exhausted, and her salary was not paid. At 5:00 a.m. on May 21, she went to the train station by bicycle. The small suitcase was placed on the front of the bicycle and kept falling. The large suitcase was dragged on the ground by her boyfriend with one hand free. After riding for about five kilometers, I met a delivery boy and offered to help. Before the big suitcase was put on the electric car, Xiaoli sat behind the electric car. After arriving at Hongqiao Railway Station, the little brother returned to pick up Zhaoli’s boyfriend. The two arrived at the station smoothly, and the little brother left without money.

In addition to the people returning home, on the way to the train station, there are also many volunteers like my brother who pick up and drop off passengers for free, maybe a deliveryman, maybe an online car-hailing driver, or even a truck driver. An online car-hailing driver observed that young people have mostly light luggage, usually a suitcase and a backpack. In contrast, middle-aged people in their 50s and 60s seem to carry a home with them. A migrant worker is carrying three large sacks in addition to a suitcase, and a woman who does housekeeping. on the body.

Yan Chi, 40, is engaged in the logistics industry. He has a truck and his own car. Since mid-May, he has been transporting helpers to the station for free. Several students from East China University of Science and Technology who were picked up a few days ago can still joke that they left Shanghai this time to go back to their hometown for construction. But more of the journey in the car was silent and even sad.

A young girl from Hubei experienced the Wuhan epidemic at the beginning of 2020. In 2022, she encountered another wave of lockdowns while working in Shanghai. During the period of working from home, the girl’s company failed to last and closed down. “She also ran out of money on her body, and she cried with snot and tears.” Some older people often have heavy expressions and few smiles when they get in the car. Yan Chi doesn’t know how to communicate, “I’m afraid they will I couldn’t hold back my emotions and cried directly.”

For many people, how many expectations they had on the way to Shanghai, they may have also harvested the same disappointment in the past two months. On May 23, Shanghai resumed the operation of four subway lines, and Zhang Tao, a freelancer, decided to make a record at Hongqiao Railway Station. He met Lao Cai, who was alone. Lao Cai was from Shandong and went to Shanghai to work in March. As a result, “after three days of work, he stopped working, and then he slept every day for more than two months.” Lao Cai smiled wryly. He decided to go to Suzhou to join his younger brother first, although he still had to be isolated, “But it’s good to have a day. You said that in Shanghai, it’s a long way off.”

The top of his head is sparse and gray, and Lao Huang, who wears a pair of black cloth shoes, is also from Shandong. He went to Shanghai in February, but only worked for half a month. Lao Huang explained the reason for his departure, “In the future, Shanghai will definitely be a capable person. Those who don’t work can get money. The rest can only get money by working, two or three hundred a day, and can’t stay in Shanghai anymore.” Zhang Tao asked, “Then are you coming back?” Lao Huang hesitated for a while, “Let’s talk after the wheat is harvested.”

Some may never come back. A volunteer always remembered a father and daughter. The destination was Hongqiao Railway Station. Just after getting on the train, the girl in her early 20s suggested that she should go to Baoshan Funeral Home first. During the two months of the lockdown, her mother died in the hospital. Now, they are going back to their hometown, Shijiazhuang, to handle the funeral. The atmosphere in the car was heavy, and the father and daughter were speechless the whole time.

On May 29, passengers waiting to return home arrived at Hongqiao Station on foot.

Viaduct, last few hundred meters

After more than 4 hours, Wen Fei finally arrived at Hongqiao Railway Station at 9 pm on May 18, but he was blocked from the door. The ticket is for 2 pm the next day. According to the regulations at that time, only with a train ticket and a 48-hour nucleic acid negative certificate can enter the waiting hall after 5:30 am on the day of departure.

Like Wenfei, many were kept out of the station. The viaduct leading to the departure level of the train station is the last few hundred meters they leave Shanghai. In order to board the next day’s train in time, they line up here day and night, from the entrance to the viaduct. At dawn, these densely packed people squirm forward slowly along the direction of the viaduct circling.

The last few hundred meters to Hongqiao Railway Station Photo courtesy of the narrator

Wenfei called a hotel near the station to try to get an empty room to rest. But the answer in every phone call is: We have been requisitioned as a quarantine hotel, only for epidemic prevention personnel. He had to find a clean lawn under the viaduct, shake out all the clothes in the suitcase, put his pants on the grass, put a sweater on his body to keep warm, try to sleep for a few hours, and wait for the car hall to open.

There was hardly any open space around him, and the lawns and concrete pavements were crowded with people. Floating in the dim air are the dots of light from the phone screen. Some people squatted on the curb, resting against their suitcases; some people lay directly on the road with a cardboard or plastic bag. Without a bathroom, the only way to get rid of it is to find a relatively remote grass to solve it on the spot. There is always a smell of urine in the grass, which cannot be dissipated.

It was not a peaceful night. In addition to the annoying mosquitoes, many people like him who were blocked from the station are frequently calling the 12345 hotline and 110 for help and shelter, and some people call their relatives at home to complain. He would suddenly burst into tears when he heard people talking on the phone.

People sleeping in the grass narrator for pictures
Liuqiangzhong, 32, drove by one night and was shocked by the scene. I have been an online taxi Hailing driver in Shanghai for more than a year, and there have never been so many people scattered around Hongqiao Station. In the past, it was like the heart of a city. The interlaced viaducts were arteries, transporting millions of outsiders to every corner. Here, order used to be very important. Every car has strict starting and stopping positions. Empty cars are not even allowed to drive in and out of the development floor.
That day, Liu Qiangzhong spent 600 yuan to buy 30 boxed lunches for these sleepers. For him, this is not a small sum of money. Liuqiangzhong, a native of Yancheng, Jiangsu Province, went to Shanghai as an online taxi driver because he owed hundreds of thousands of foreign debts for stock trading. He lives at 20 yuan a night and rents a house. He runs 15 or 6 hours a day. He can barely earn 8000 yuan a month.
It was said that many people came on foot. Liuqiangzhong decided to pick up the helpers to the railway station for free. “At least I am better than those who sleep on the road. There is a shelter.” He once picked up and saw off a dozen people in a day, and he could only rest for two hours. Most of these helpers are young people.
Despite the twists and turns of these young helpers, according to Jiangdong, a 28 year old take away rider, “it has been better than many people.” In his impression, “it may not be easy for older people to ask for help” – he once met a middle-aged elder brother, who was 40 or 50 years old and illiterate, who was sent help messages by his niece.
In mid May, Jiang Dong and several colleagues formed a motorcade to pick up and send off the returnees free of charge. They gather at 8 a.m., deliver people in the morning and take out in the afternoon. Because of the restrictions of transportation, they only pick up and send people near Qingpu Huaxin Town where they are located, and they only take the route from Qingpu to Hongqiao. Jiang Dong was embarrassed, “indeed, their ability is limited.” But when picking up the illiterate middle-aged brother, he said about Hongqiao Station. As soon as he saw the ticket, it was Shanghai station. The rider in charge of picking up and seeing off could not bear to refuse. He still drove dozens of kilometers to Shanghai station, and the round-trip bus ran out of power. Jiang Dong remembers that the rider said, “you can’t leave it alone.”
Jiang Dong’s motorcade quarreled every day because of the pick-up. Sometimes because of the route arrangement, sometimes because of the attitude of the caller, he turned and left without a word of thanks. It takes up working hours and doesn’t charge money. Some young riders feel cold and don’t want to work anymore. The older riders comfort them. Don’t stop now that you’ve done it. Stick to it until the traffic recovers. In this way, every day, a few small and insignificant people in the city continued to release their goodwill. Jiang Dong especially emphasized that some younger brothers of flash delivery and goods pulling also took the initiative to send messages to help together when they saw the video. “If it were not for them, our electric cars alone would not be able to deliver more than 30 people in a few days.”
Under the viaduct, there are people who are depressed and people who try to drive away sadness. A car with a banner of “Chinese veterans’ emergency rescue” sent watermelons to the stranded people. Yan Chi, who is engaged in the logistics industry, delivers people every day. He buys flour, cabbage, radish and meat stuffing with his two sworn brothers, packs 1000 buns, and delivers them to the station at 11:00 p.m. for free.
The recent Hongqiao Railway Station always reminds Yan Chi that 20 years ago, he carried a quilt to Shanghai and couldn’t even afford a piece of 1.5 yuan corn. “This group of people who left Shanghai were deeply hurt. Many others were really unable to survive in Shanghai and were forced to leave.” He hoped that in the last few hundred meters, he would “make everyone feel warm.”
Liuqiangzhong, an online car Hailing driver, sent a young man from Henan. The 28 year old young man, dragging a suitcase and four bags of things, started from Fengxian District and walked for more than 20 kilometers. He didn’t eat a meal and blistered his feet. He was really powerless and had to throw away the quilt. At a place 30 kilometers away from the station, he got on liuqiangzhong’s car. He said that when he came to Shanghai for the first time, he worked for a day at the construction site. As a result, he was trapped for two months. When he spoke, his eyebrows and eyes drooped. It seemed that he had been hit hard.
The car finally stopped at P10 parking lot. The young man was still wolfing down his boxed lunch in the car. Liu Qiangzhong gave him 400 yuan in cash. “Buy something to eat on the way, and you can get home safely and fully.”

On May 29, 2022, passengers took a rest at the roadside near Hongqiao Station.
Hangzhou East, uneasy
After a long walk, cycling, and the kindness of many strangers, the returnees finally boarded the train leaving Shanghai. When the train started slowly, it also meant that they said goodbye to the two months of containment and embarrassment. As of May 29, hundreds of trains passed Shanghai Hongqiao Station every day. Unlike in the past, most of the carriages leaving Shanghai were very quiet. The laughter and the sound of eating melon seeds in the past disappeared. People closed their eyes and looked tired.
However, the journey home has not ended, and most people are still uneasy. Yang Xiao, 25, is one of them. On May 19, he rode 10 kilometers to the railway station. The moment he boarded the train, he was “very tired”, but he did not dare to sleep on the train – he had to transfer to Hangzhou east railway station for only one hour and was afraid to sleep over the station.
Hangzhou East, less than 200 kilometers away from Shanghai, is a transit station for many people. Every day, more than a dozen trains from Shanghai arrive, and people run from here to their homes. As soon as they set foot on the land of Hangzhou, passengers from Shanghai were shunted and queued up by loudspeakers, signboards and staff wearing protective clothing to make nucleic acids, antigens and fill out various letters of commitment. Here, there is no end to the team. Yang Xiao estimated that “there are at least 3400 people”, and it will take four hours to complete the process.
Caught in the crowd, many people watched their train leave helplessly. Overnight transfer is not allowed in Hangzhou east railway station. On that night, passengers from Shanghai cannot stay overnight in the station. They have to be taken to the hotel for isolation. It costs 500 yuan a day. The scene was once chaotic and no one was willing to go. Yang Xiao’s ticket was too late, and he refused to go to isolation – he really couldn’t afford the isolation fee. After two months in Shanghai, he not only lost his income, but also entered the shelter twice.
Hangzhou east railway station finally compromised. Two open spaces are temporarily enclosed by iron railings in the station for these overnight transfer people. The entrance and exit are guarded by security guards. If you want to go to the toilet, you should take your ID card to the security guard and take it back when you come back.

Narrator’s drawing of temporary resettlement site of Hangzhou east railway station
Although the freedom of action has been lost, the daily breath is gradually approaching. At Hangzhou east railway station, Yang Xiao bought three dishes at one go, Mapo Tofu, hot and sour potato shreds and stir fried meat. After two months, this Chongqing man finally tasted the spicy flavor again. A middle-aged couple approached and asked cautiously, “young man, where can I buy this dish?” They want to go back to Guiyang, but they can only buy tickets for Jinhua. They can’t read or use mobile phones. Seeing that their luggage was still carrying a cutting machine for the construction site, Yang Xiao could not bear to give them some takeout and help buy tickets on his mobile phone.
One night at Hangzhou east railway station, Yang Xiao slept for only two hours with a billboard under his coat. There are also tired travelers around. Some people sleep against a corner, while others sit there all night. Yang Xiao tried to chat with them. Some were silent directly, others were worried, and their expressions were “tired and tired”.
Yang Xiao stayed at Hangzhou east railway station for 26 hours and didn’t leave for Wuhan until 6 p.m. the next day. Before leaving, the Guiyang couple handed Yang Xiao a cigarette and kept thanking him, “without you, we don’t know how to go back.”
The journey home is not over. Yang Xiao stayed overnight in Wuhan and received a text message saying that there might be new coronavirus infected people in the train of his peers. On that day, Wuhan hotel made nucleic acid for him four times in a row, “it’s over. Can’t you really go back?” But he didn’t dare to ask the staff, “I’m afraid it’s true. I really don’t want to hear this result.”
After walking home for three days and two nights, Yang Xiao finally arrived in Chongqing in the early morning of May 22. When he saw the familiar Yu a license plate, Yang Xiao said, “it’s really a feeling of going home.” He decided to visit his grandmother whom he hadn’t seen for two years after his isolation.
At the isolation hotel in Weihai, Shandong Province, when a 22-year-old young man had dinner, “tears were coming down”. He was hungry in a rental house in Shanghai. At that time, he had no cooking tools. He could only heat the steamed stuffed buns with chopsticks on a hot water pot. The steamed stuffed buns were rancid and the stuffing was oozing mucus. However, he had no choice but to endure the taste and swallow them with raw garlic moss.
At the moment, because of the economic conditions and the isolation policy of their hometown, more people are still trapped in Shanghai, such as liuqiangzhong, who picks up and sends off the helpers free of charge from the railway station. It takes three hours to drive from Shanghai to Yancheng, but it takes seven days of centralized isolation and seven days of home isolation to go back. The 12-year-old son is about to take the final exam. He is worried about affecting his children, so he chooses to continue wandering in Shanghai.
Wen Fei successfully arrived in Hangzhou east on May 19. He slept in the isolation hotel until noon the next day. When he woke up, his body was sore and his legs trembled. Fortunately for many, this is his destination. After seven days of intensive isolation, he officially regained his freedom on May 26. He went to the barber shop for the first time. In the past two months, his hair has grown so long that it almost covers his eyes. When he left Shanghai by bike, Wen Fei kept thinking, “we didn’t do anything wrong. Why did this happen?”
He has no answer.
Note: on May 31, Shanghai held a press conference on epidemic prevention and control, informing that from June 1, the city will fully restore normal production and living order, the city’s ground bus and rail transit network will resume basic operation, and taxis and online taxi Hailing will resume normal operation. According to the volunteers, the P10 parking lot of Hongqiao Railway Station later became one of the temporary resettlement sites of the station. People are still casually padded with bedding, cardboard or plastic bags, but there is always a roof covering their heads.

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