TURNING 20 is the start of adulthood. It is supposed to be a wonderful time when one works hard to chase after dreams and looks forward to the future.
But for Xiao Liu (not her real name) from Yunnan province in south-western China, the future is bleak.
The 20-year-old has a huge responsibility of taking care of her three younger siblings and two grandparents.
To end her misery, she attempted to commit suicide several times.
The young woman had in numerous occasions cut her wrists and arms, leaving behind dozens of scars on her hands.
“This is not the first time I attempted to take my life, ” she said while crying hysterically on a hospital bed as she showed her scars to the police.
She had just been rescued after jumping into a river in Hangzhou city, where she worked as a salesgirl at a mall.
According to the police, Xiao Liu has been the family’s sole breadwinner for a few years.
It was too much of a burden at such a tender age, said the police.
Xiao Liu told the police her parents separated when she was small.
“They left the village and have never returned.”
She recalled that the family used to wait at the entrance to the village during festive seasons, hoping her parents would come back one day.
“But after many years, we knew they would not come back, ” she told the cops.
The four siblings – three girls and a boy – were under the care of their paternal grandparents.
But her grandparents were too old to continue working and whatever money they had could hardly support the family of six.
Xiao Liu had no other choice but to find work in the city.
“I started working a few years ago, selling clothes at a mall in Hangzhou. But with my meagre salary, I could hardly feed my siblings and grandparents, ” she said.
Xiao Liu added that her siblings were too young to share the responsibilities.
“They are still in school, ” she said.
Unable to cope with the burden, she attempted to end her life several times.
Two weeks ago, she jumped into a river and passers-by spotted Xiao Liu and alerted the police, who sent her to the hospital.
Last week, Hangzhou police told thepaper.cn that Xiao Liu had returned to her hometown, and that she promised to be strong.
The All-China Women’s Federation, an organisation to oversee women’s affairs, has also stepped in to follow up on the case.
Xiao Liu’s ordeal has captured the public’s attention after it was highlighted last week by the local media.
Netizens sent their words of sympathy, encouraging her to stay strong.
“We can save her life but can’t pull her out from the ordeal, she needs the courage and motivation to live on, ” wrote Yanyan.
“No one could bear the burden. At just 20, one can hardly make enough money to feed himself, ” Yu Miao pointed out.
Xiao Yan suggested that a long-term plan was needed to help the family out of the dilemma.
“We can help her once but after this?” she asked.
Another netizen said: “After reading this, I feel that being the only child in the family is not a bad thing.”
Some people also condemned the irresponsible parents while calling on the authorities to take legal actions against the couple.
There were also netizens who suggested that Xiao Liu give up her siblings for adoption.
China’s Civil Code states that parents have the right and duty to educate and protect their children of minor age.
Internet users have described Xiao Liu as the true version of An Ran, a character in Chinese film Sister.
Released on April 2, the movie tells the story of An Ran, a nurse who struggles to decide if she needs to take care of her six-year-old brother after their parents died in a car accident.
“The difference between the two is Xiao Liu’s parents are still alive, so the responsibility should not fall on her, ” said a netizen.
Sister, which is now showing in cinemas across the country, is a hit and raked in 500mil yuan (RM315mil) within a week.
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