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Chinese New Year sends laborers home, rich abroad

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 30, 2014 at 1:05 am •  Published: January 30, 2014

BEIJING (AP) — Dragging a heavy suitcase through a Shanghai subway station, 17-year-old Linghu Yong prepared himself to cram onto a jam-packed train Thursday for the 30-hour trip home to spend the Lunar New Year with his family.

And he was one of the lucky ones. Crowds of other migrant workers were still camped out for the often dayslong wait for a ticket.

"I'll be celebrating the New Year for the first time on the train," said the aspiring college student from the western city of Chongqing, who came to Shanghai to apprentice at a cellphone factory. "My New Year wish is to go home to celebrate the New Year with my family, and to buy a computer."

China's Lunar New Year migration is often referred to as the largest movement of people anywhere, with 3.6 billion trips of all lengths by bus, plane and train expected to be made over the 40-day travel rush. While still an annual ritual for millions working far from home, such journeys are being shunned by many of the newly prosperous who are increasingly using the weeklong national holiday to fly to overseas or tourist spots within China.

Beijing accountant Wang Zheng, 34, said her whole family will go to China's tropical resort island of Hainan despite its reputation for holiday price-gouging by hotels and restaurants.

"Why not make the holiday more fun rather than just having the usual big dinner with family or going to the traditional temple fair? That definitely gets old," she said.

Chinese communities around the world were gearing up for the holiday that begins at midnight. On self-governing Taiwan, revelers jammed into the capital Taipei's historic shopping district to load up on holiday snacks. Health authorities said that nearly 40 percent of the island's population can be expected to gain two kilograms (4.4 pounds) during the holiday.

Hong Kong officials expect nearly 8 million travelers to pass through its borders from January 29 to February 6, more than the local population of 7.1 million. Most of those travelers will be mainland Chinese, who have been flooding into the semiautonomous territory in increasing numbers in recent years thanks to rising incomes and a strengthening yuan.

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