China's plan to sell train tickets online was supposed to make the massive Lunar New Year travel season simpler and easier for tens of millions of holiday travelers. But for the country's legions of poor migrants who only get home once a year -- often the only time they see their own children -- the online ticket system has been an utter flop.
The specific case of 37-year-old Huang Qinghong has become the most popular example of how migrants often draw the short straw when the entire country embarks on travel during the new year holiday. Huang, a migrant worker in Wenzhou, wrote to China's Ministry of Railways about the absurdity of the situation. Migrants, China's second-class citizens, typically don't have laptops or regular Internet access on their mobile phones. In other words, the online ticket-buying system is of use only to those with money and means, the very people who don't have much trouble booking train tickets to begin with.
Huang told officials how he waited in line hours on end, only to be told by ticket sellers that trains were sold out, seats and sleeper cars bought up by those buying tickets online.
His story spread like wildfire in Chinese newspapers and on social media. In response to his plight, a local newspaper in Wenzhou bought Huang a plane ticket home for the holidays. So while his problem is solved, millions of others are left standing in line hoping for tickets.