A photo of a young Chinese boy has gone viral in the country, as he arrived in school with a frozen face and hair after walking through the frigid rural cold, The South China Morning Post reports.
The photos surfaced nearly a month after a report revealed that the Chinese government has significantly limited access to fuel sources in rural communities in an attempt to better conform to environmental standards.
The boy, named Wang Fuman, was photographed arriving at his a primary school in southwest Yunnan province with his hair covered in frost and bright red cheeks as a result of the sub-zero temperatures after walking around 4.5km (2.8 miles) to get there.
Chinese media have referred to the boy as a “left behind child,” a term used to describe children with little parental support as their parents work away from home.
Chinese media claim that the photo has prompted thousands of donations to the boy’s school. Eighty-one pupils have reportedly received around 50,000 yuan ($77) in subsidies. A local engineering firm also donated 144 items of warm clothing and offered the boy’s father a new job.
“I’m so happy because many people are helping me and have given me many gifts,” the boy was quoted as saying, adding that he wanted to save some of his pocket money for when his parents fall ill.
Freezing temperatures and a lack of basic heating has become a major issue for peasant communities across China’s major cities, compounded by the regime’s recent clean air initiatives to tackle pollution.
Reports in December quoted social media posts from rural communities where residents protested that they had to sacrifice to adhere to the environmental whims of the Communist Party. “We are frozen to death. Please help us,” one such post read, according to the BBC.
That month, the communist government was forced to reverse a ban on coal to help ease the pressure of sub-zero temperatures, while many people are paying double the price for natural gas to heat their homes.
Like many parts of the world, China is currently experiencing a vicious cold snap from which ten people have died, while 567,000 people have been affected.
As of Jan. 5, at least ten people died and 567,000 people affected as massive snowstorm hit central and east China, according to authorities pic.twitter.com/QlDW1dMqZ1
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) January 5, 2018
The state propaganda outlet Global Times admitted that the picture showed that, despite China’s growing economy, the country also faces an “arduous task developing comprehensive welfare for its people.”
“The picture that has touched the nerves of almost all netizens evidently suggests that China is still a developing country lagging behind its developed counterparts in education, healthcare, housing and so forth,” read an editorial.
“While parents in first-tier cities pour tens of thousands of yuan into sending their children to extracurricular classes and summer camps, rural pupils make a grueling trek to a classroom that, in most cases, has no heating in winter – the only place for them to access knowledge,” it continues.