BEIJING (Reuters) – The story of a migrant worker in Beijing who caught COVID-19 while searching for his missing son sparked shock and sympathy on social media on Thursday, drawing attention to the difficulties encountered by the floating population in major Chinese cities.

On Wednesday, city officials said an asymptomatic case of the novel coronavirus was detected in a 44-year-old man they identified by surname Yue in the affluent Chaoyang district. His frequent and extensive trips around the city, at odd hours, have been widely discussed online.

Social media users have declared Yue the “hardest working person among the floating population” – a hashtag that has amassed more than 60 million views on Twitter, like Weibo, drawing attention to the deep inequality in China that has led last year President Xi Jinping to call for the achievement of ‘common prosperity’.

In interviews with local media, the former fisherman from central China’s Henan Province said he arrived in Beijing last year knowing that his son, Yue Yuetong, 21, had worked as a cook in the capital.

Since then, he has worked odd jobs, from collecting rubbish to transporting building materials, and is the main breadwinner in a household of six, including his paralyzed father.

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Yue, who is being treated in a hospital in Beijing, told China News Weekly that since his son’s disappearance in August 2020, he has worked in several provinces looking for him. In Beijing, Yue earns around 200-300 yuan ($31.53-$47.29) per shift and sleeps four to five hours a day.

“I don’t think I’m pitiful, I just want to do my job well, not steal or steal, rely on my own strength, my own hands, earn money and find my son,” he said. China Weekly News.

Yue’s son, who will turn 21 this year and is one of an estimated 285 million Chinese migrant workers who move to cities in search of work and a better life, was last seen in a bus station in Rongcheng, Shandong province, according to an interview Yue gave to the state. -run Beijing News which was later deleted.

A police station in Rongcheng told local media that it was investigating.

Reuters could not reach Yue, whose story emerged as Beijing is on high alert for the spread of the Omicron variant and COVID-19 outbreaks again disrupt pre-holiday travel plans. Lunar New Year in China when workers, including migrants such as Yue usually return home for family reunions.

Some social media users have drawn attention to the disparity between Yue’s movements and another recent COVID-19 case in Beijing who visited a ski resort and jewelry store before testing positive for the virus. .

“I don’t know if ‘common prosperity’ is an empty word, but it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that every worker can live in a respectable way,” said another Weibo user who uses firetrap-virtuallife .

($1 = 6.3432 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Albee Zhang and Tony Munroe; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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