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    University in Xiamen Pays Students to Visit Their Parents

    School also turned going home over Spring Festival into a homework assignment.

    For many young Chinese, going home to visit family can be a source of anxiety, but a university in Xiamen is now promoting filial piety with cash handouts.

    To encourage out-of-town students to visit their faraway families, Xiamen University of Technology (XUT), in eastern China’s Fujian province, started a “red envelope lottery” to cover travel fees during the recently concluded Spring Festival holiday, Xiamen Daily reported Thursday. Red envelopes, or hongbao, are traditionally filled with cash and given to family and friends around the lunar new year and other Chinese holidays.

    On its public WeChat account, XUT hosted four lottery rounds for which a total of 200 lucky winners could receive up to 500 yuan ($73) each. Only students whose families come from outside of Xiamen can apply — one of the winners, the university wrote, traveled to and from Gansu province, some 2,000 kilometers away in the China’s northwest.

    The event is part of XUT’s “family ties education,” and the school has put visiting parents over the new year break on its holiday homework list for students. According to Xiamen Daily, the university was worried that many students would devote themselves to job-hunting during the holidays and neglect their families. The university did not immediately reply to Sixth Tone’s request for comment.

    Lin Jiahui, a third-year student at XUT, told Sixth Tone that this was not the first time for the school has encouraged students to visit their families. Although she has never won a red envelope herself, Lin supports the lottery: “It reminds students to visit their parents and makes family relationships closer,” she said.

    Lin, whose hometown Fuzhou is a 100-yuan trainride away, added that she plans to stay in Xiamen during the next summer break to look for an internship, along with many of her classmates, whom she believes will do the same. “I think we should spend Spring Festival with our families,” she said. “But this year’s summer vacation will be different for me: Graduation is looming, and I have to plan for my future career.”

    With young people flocking to urban centers to look for better work and study opportunities, many Chinese families now live relatively far apart, giving rise to the phenomenon of “left-behind elderly,” who grow old without assistance from their children. According to a 2015 central government report, 40 percent of Chinese above the age of 50 do not live with their children — a growing problem as China’s society ages but health care facilities lag behind.

    To tackle the crisis, the government has released a series of policies aimed at taking care of seniors and encouraging the younger generation to fulfill the Confucian tenet of filial piety.

    In January, the People’s Congress of Fujian province approved “Regulations on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People,” which give only children an extra 10 days of annual leave if their elderly parents must be hospitalized.

    In 2016, several provinces unveiled plans for so-called filial piety vacations to encourage children to visit their homes and look after their parents — though an article by state news agency Xinhua about the plans quoted several people who expressed doubt as to whether these measures would indeed be effective.

    (Header image: A student wheels a suitcase at a bus terminal in Huai’an, Jiangsu province, March 1, 2015. He Jinghua/VCG)