Limited Choices in Xi’s China for Certain Chinese Migrants

Cong, a 47-year-old Chinese immigrant, was one of over a dozen migrants who stepped out of a narrow wooden boat on the stony beach of the Chucunaque River in Lajas Blancas, Panama, carrying just a rucksack, a temporary tent, and a small shoulder bag. The stop, one of many he had taken in the previous month, was where he first spoke with VOA’s Mandarin Service about his voyage to the United States, which had started in the southwest Chinese province of Sichuan. Cong gave no indication of his entire identity, citing privacy issues. Wearing a black sports short, white Croc-like shoes, and a long-sleeved black T-shirt, he strolled along the shoreline in the scorching sun.


The fastest-growing group of those undertaking the arduous trek to the U.S. border are immigrants from China. A crucial portion of the voyage involves crossing the perilous Darien Gap in Panama and running the risk of illness and death. Cong, like many others, claims to have learned a great deal about the voyage from internet resources, such as Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok. He planned for six months before deciding, “I had to leave.Cong expressed his depression by saying that there is no freedom in China. He claimed that since he had criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping and used sensitive phrases, his Douyin account had been suspended multiple times.


He left China for a number of reasons, one of which was the country’s weak economy. Both exports and imports have decreased, and the stock market is at a five-year low. Cong had to close his crepe shop in June of last year due to a lack of patronage. Nobody is wealthy. “Business is never easy,” he declared. “If there is no international trade, just domestic money is exchanged. How does that generate income?” Cong is not the only one who has decided to travel to the border with the United States. Over 37,000 Chinese migrants were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2023, almost ten times more than the previous year, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.



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