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Women in Danger

Yuying Chen

“I’ve finally got a chance to repay society!”

Chen Yuying belongs to Zhongxian County in Chongqing City in China. Once an ordinary worker among the millions of female migrant workers from the countryside, Chen Yuying was barely 15 and hadn’t even finished junior high school when she joined the Zhili Toy Plant in the Shenzen region of China. Shenzen at that time was the most developed region in the country. Chen left her studies to work in order to support her brother to go to university. However, a big factory fire completely changed her life: she lost over 80 co-workers in the fire, and for herself, she lost her legs, and and 75 per cent burns over two thirds of her body and could not work any more. The responsibility of looking after her fell on her family.

After the initial trauma, Chen’s natural optimism reasserted itself. She determined to live. Gradually, she was able to use her artificial limb to walk, and could partly take care of herself. Supported by her relatives and friends, Chen regained her courage for living. But she did not stop there; she took up a long fight for the improvement of the welfare of migrant workers from the countryside, as well as against the factory’s responsibility to its workers.

She also wished to do something for those who had cared for her. It was for this reason that she started the Self-support Service Station that became a new beginning in her life as well as that of her fellow workers and handicapped friends. Chen was very caring towards other handicapped people. She helped a young woman, Yanzi, living in Remin Road, to get over her embarrassment at being a dwarf and a hunchback. Gradually, Yanzi was able to confront the outside world and she set up her own business. Soon she met someone and fell in love. Chen has supported many others like Yanzi, giving them hope and courage to continue living.

She took every chance to use her social connections to locate people and groups in need. After taking part in the conference of the Chongqing Handicapped Association, she contacted many handicapped people through their network, and offered them services. She also set up an “assistance project”, providing 200 yuan to each of them, or helping them with small capital so they could start their own businesses. When she heard of a serious accident concerning occupational diseases in Chongqing, she visited the victims with her partners, and sent for a doctor to help them with their recovery. And she worked on providing information about how to prevent occupational diseases. Chen has also worked with the Handicapped School in the county and gives lectures to handicapped children, encouraging them to face life bravely; she has started to provide 500 yuan for each child who belongs to a needy family.

On June 18, 2002, Chen set up a handicapped service station at her home, with two hotlines. These hotlines enable her to listen to the stories of the handicapped and offer them advice and help. They have very quickly become popular, especially among the handicapped around the country. Organizations like the Bejing Love Community and Chengdu “Life Hotline” have spoken highly of them and have offered help with information. Ten needy handicapped persons were able to obtain micro credit for an assistance project through these hotlines, four children were able to get stipends for handicapped children, and the Italian company cooperating with the Zhili Toy Plant finally agreed to give a “donation” in response to repeated appeals from Chen and her fellow workers. They gave more than 10,000 yuan as compensation to the fire victims or their relatives: this helped the families who were in difficult economic circumstances.

When Xiao Ni from Henan heard the story of Chen Yuying, he came to Zhongxian County to visit her. Xiao Ni suffered from poliomyelitis when he was young, and had great difficulty in walking. When he grew up, he became a substitute teacher in a local primary school. However, when the number of teachers exceeded the requirements, he was laid off. He became very depressed and lost the wish to live. He heard about Chen and thought he would visit her to see what kind of life she was leading after being so badly injured.

When depressed Ni met extrovert Chen, he was deeply touched. Chen saw him writing with his left hand and guessed that he must have faced many difficulties, particularly in his teaching. She told him that it was probably a good thing that he had left teaching, for now he could try to do something else. She recommended him to a welfare plant in Zhejiang Province, and he left, thankful for the chance to start a new life.

Several days later, a friend of Chen’s told her that the young man who had visited her some days earlier, was still at the station. Chen rushed there, and found that Xiao Ni had lost his wallet, and had no money to go home. She gave 200 yuan to Xiao Ni at once, and saw him off at the station. Once home, Xiao Ni began work in Changrong Handicraft Shoes Plant. When he received his first salary, he sent the 200yuan back to Chen by post, and thanked her profusely for her help.

Chen receives each handicapped person she meets warmly. She has also made friends with many of them and her sincerest wish is to be able to help them as much as she can. The service station that she set up runs on a voluntary basis. For Chen, this is a chance to repay society.


Chen Yuying is from Zhongxian County in Chongqing City. At the beginning of the 1990s, when she was only 15 and had not even finished junior high school, she went to the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and worked in the Zhili Toy Plant, supporting her brother’s desire to go to university. There, a big factory fire changed her life: 75 per cent of her body was covered with third degree burns. She was unable to work. She also lost over 80 co-workers in the fire. However, within one year, with the support of her relatives and friends, Chen regained her wish to live.
Despite the emotional trauma she had to face, she took up the fight for the welfare of migrant workers from rural areas and against the factory. She also wished to do something for those who had cared for her. Thus the Self-support Service Station became a new start in life for Chen, as well as for her fellow workers and handicapped friends.
Chen was kind to her handicapped friends. A woman, Yanzi, was a dwarf and a hunchback, and felt terrible about her physical appearance. Chen spent a great deal of time with her and won her confidence. Gradually, Yanzi was able to confront the outside world and start her own business, and soon she met someone and fell in love.
Yanzi is only one of the many people Chen has supported. On June 18, 2002, Chen set up a sign for a handicapped service station at her home, with two hotlines. She runs this service station on a voluntary basis and is happy that she has a chance to repay society.


Since the 1980s, China has seen much industrial development. But the problems of industrial safety and workers’ rights are becoming increasingly serious. Workers have fought hard to get state legislation and implementation of laws safeguarding workers, particularly migrants from the country.


Eastern Asia | China


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