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Post-80s Volunteers on Rise

When it came to deciding whether to take care of his quake-injured mom and volunteer for the people in tremor-battered areas, 25-year-old Liu Yi, chose the latter.

In a country where a child's failure to exercise promptu piety to parents are usually condemned and draw public exposure, the choice was by no means easy.

"The families can take care of my mom. Besides, there's my girlfriend," he said.

Liu, a graduate from Chongqing Jiaotong University in southwest China in 2006 and now an employee of the Chongqing Municipal Bureau of Highways, said he wanted to do something "practical" and "helpful" for the people in the quake-hit regions.

The magnitude-8.0 quake that rocked the southwest Sichuan Province on May 12 damaged all the furniture and electrical appliances in his Guanghan home, located north of the capital Chengdu.

Liu's injured mother was sent to a relatives' home in Chongqing, a nearby municipality less affected by the quake. On the same day, he headed for Hongbai Township in Sichuan's Shifang City, the place hardest-hit by the tremor.

With an educational background in bridge construction, he was assigned to the logistics management division, where he was doing construction site management. He was also involved in publicity, taking pictures and shooting videos.

The young man said the relief experience reshaped his world views and helped him to learn things that were not taught in school.

"We used to rely on our parents and teachers back in school. The earthquake made us realize that some difficulties needed to be tackled by ourselves," he said.

Liu was one of the thousands of youngsters who rushed to the quake scene since May 12, most of whom were born after 1980, two years after China embarked on its reform and opening-up drives in 1978.

Such children were also nicknamed "Post-80s," a phrase that usually reminded people of a pampered and spoilt generation.

Being the generation to witness China's strong economic boom, the Post-80s were often labeled as apathetic, selfish or money worshippers. They were portrayed as spoiled only children who did not care about others' feelings and could not handle things by themselves.

This stereotyped view would have lingered for years or a decade had it not been for the cascading crisis in the country this year that had put more spotlights on the young Chinese.

A paralyzing winter storm in January, disruptions of Beijing Olympic torch relay on its foreign legs, and the disastrous magnitude-8.0 earthquake in Sichuan Province, have all spurred young Chinese to act in a responsible manner on the frontline.

Every time, when crisis strikes the country, a surge of patriotism was observed, and most often with young faces most active among the participants.

An unprecedented heavy snow cut power and water supplies in dozens of towns and cities in the southern part of the country ahead of China's Lunar New Year in January, and stranded millions of home-bound travelers.

In a bid to ease the huge traffic burden, college students in major southern cities became the most supportive group to echo the government's call. They spent the Spring Festival, the country's most important holiday, on campuses instead of going back home by the already-jammed trains.

In Guangzhou, capital of the south Guangdong Province, young volunteers wearing red bands were seen in train stations offering hot water and directing passengers.

In the global torch relay tour for the Beijing Olympics, Chinese students overseas held peaceful rallies, waving the national flag and Beijing Olympics banners to support the relay in London, Paris, and San Francisco.

Students were also a major force to overwhelm the protests of pro-"Tibetan Independence" forces who were trying to sabotage the Games' international torch relay.

In New York City, nearly 10,000 Chinese students, scholars and Chinese-Americans held a peaceful rally to support the Olympics and denounce attempts to sabotage the sporting event.

Students waved both Chinese colors and the Beijing Olympics banners, chanted slogans such as "Join the Beijing Olympics, feel a real China," and "Free Olympics from politics."

They also made streamers in response to CNN news commentator Jack Cafferty's description of Chinese as "goons and thugs" on April 9 in a program covering the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco.

During the 16th National Congress of the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC), which opened here on Tuesday, Lu Hao, first secretary of the Secretariat of the 15th CYLC Central Committee and executive chairman of the congress presidium, praised the young people, including students studying overseas, for the patriotism they displayed during the torch relay process of the Beijing Olympic Games.

On the Internet, millions of Chinese college students put a red heart followed by "China" before their names on the MSN messaging service to show their support when the country encountered pressing challenges after the March 14 Lhasa riot.

Though the sign of the red heart has changed into a colorful rainbow showing that a "rainbow connects hearts" after the quake, the Post-80s' response to the catastrophic quake have been multi-fold.

On May 13, the day after the major tremor, universities in Beijing made appeals to donate blood for the injured people. At the elite Tsinghua University, students waited in a queue hundreds of meters long to give blood.

Almost at the same time, voluntary actions turned into spontaneous ones. Hundreds of urban, relatively well-off Post-80s from neighboring Chongqing municipality and Guizhou Province drove private cars loaded with deliveries to the quake-hit counties and townships. They dropped off food and clothes into temporary storage areas without registration and then went back for more trips.

Youngsters born after 1980 were also one of the major forces of the quake-relief missions. Young soldiers from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and armed police were all pioneers of rescue missions.

For 14-year-old Zheng Xiaopeng, who was invited to the CYLC congress to do a report on his heroic deeds of leading dozens of fellow villagers out of zones that might be affected by a liquid ammonia leak, the middle-school student gave thanks to his uncles from the military and the young volunteers.

"In the quake, I saw uncles from the PLA brave heavy rain and tried to save people in the late night. Anonymous soldiers even gave us their daily food ration when they met the villagers. I also saw young volunteers sending tents, clothes and quilts." he told more than 1,500 delegates attending the event in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday.

"To become a volunteer has already become a way of life for Chinese young people," said Pi Jun, Chinese Young Volunteers Association deputy secretary-general.

According to a report jointly released by the Beijing Municipal Education Committee and China Education Daily in April 2007, 82.1 percent of the college students responding said the best way to show their patriotism was to share the wealth and woes of their motherland.

As evidence, the country has seen a spate of outpouring patriotism in the form of volunteer service over the last few years.

In August 2003, more than 10,000 fresh college graduates joined the Go West Volunteer Program to do one to two years' of service in the western provinces, the country's less developed interior region. More than 70,000 young students have joined the program over the past five years, official statistics show.

To date, millions of young people have participated in the "Mother River Protection" project, an environmentally-friendly move aimed at restoring ecological harmony and forestation along the country's major rivers, according to Wednesday's People's Daily.

The project has now benefited by a total coverage of 2.93 million Chinese mu (about 195,533 hectares), the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, more than 1 million people, mostly youngsters, had applied to volunteer at the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to statistics from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG).

Since 2002, young Chinese volunteers had also started to provide humanitarian aid and services in foreign countries. Nearly 300 Chinese youngsters have been sent to eight developing countries, including Laos, Myanmar, Ethiopia and Guyana, among other, to do volunteer work.

With a registered number of 25.11 million people, they have offered 6.1 billion hours of volunteer service for the society, said Pi Jun of the Young Volunteers Association.

"The Post-80s have channeled their patriotism into a passionate but controlled manner (in these events)," said Peng Fuchun, a professor in the School of Philosophy under Wuhan University in the central Hubei Province.

"We see hope in those young people."

(Xinhua News Agency June 12, 2008)

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