Project Description

Wenzhou, Zhejiang: Li’s emigration trip (1)


It is the autumn of 1991 and at 20 years of age, Li Xiaohong is set on going abroad. More than half of the people that are officially registered in Li’s township in Wenzhou actually live overseas. Most of Li’s family friends have gone to the Netherlands, Italy, France, and Africa, where they started small retail and wholesale businesses. Li’s goal is to go to Germany and set up his own restaurant.

Ox tails
Chinese illegal immigrantLi pays USD 25,000 to a human trafficking broker in Wenzhou, for which the ox tail (as they are also known) promises to get Li to Germany within two months; ten percent needs to be paid up front. The ox tail also offers to provide Li with a passport and exit permit for an extra several thousand USD. At first, Li considers bribing the customs officials himself, but then he changes his mind and accepts. He has heard of too many friends that tried to do that and failed.

Li knows that a successful trip to Europe will mostly depend on luck. At each of the countless transit points between China and Germany there is a risk of getting caught. Three years ago, the first time he tried to make the trip, he only reached Moscow where he was caught and sent back. With unease, Li thinks of his friend Chen, who tried the trip five times before succeeding…

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