Left-Behind Chinese Girl Starts Fire to Bring Mother Home

March 25, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

A migrant worker’s 12-year-old daughter, who stays in the countryside with her grandparents, tried to get her mother to come home using an act of arson.

The girl, called Xiaolin, lives in the remote village of Guang’an in Sichuan Province. She set light to a neighbor’s woodshed on March 6, China News reported.

The fire spread, and caused about 50,000 yuan (around $8,000) worth of damage to the properties of three villagers.

Xiaolin told police that she did not mean to burn the houses down, according to China News. Instead, she thought her family would have to pay compensation, meaning her mother would come home.

Her parents are divorced, and Xiaolin has only seen her mother, Aqiong, once in the past 10 years. The ploy was unsuccessful as Aqiong will not be coming back yet, but said she would visit Xiaolin for her birthday in August.

Approximately 200 people are registered in Xiaolin’s village, but only around 40 live there now–mostly elderly people, and about a dozen left-behind children. 

In China, there are an estimated 61 million children who live apart from their parents. Typically, the grandparents look after the children, while the parents move to cities in search of work. Due to the hukou registration system introduced by the Communist Party, the children can only be schooled locally, and therefore cannot live with their parents.

Research by Sophia Fang.