BEIJING, January 20 - (This January 20 story corrects the translation of the hashtag in the third paragraph.)
On Thursday, a migrant worker in Beijing caught COVID-19 while searching for his missing son sparked concern and displeasure on social media, drawing attention to the challenges faced by the floating population in China's cities.
A 44-year-old man was identified by his surname Yue in the affluent Chaoyang district on Wednesday, and his frequent and wide-ranging movements around the city, at odd hours, were widely discussed online.
Yue was declared "the most skilled working man found in a COVID-19 investigation," according to social media users. A hashtag that garnered over 60 million views on Weibo, drawing attention to China's widespread inequality that last year led President Xi Jinping to challenge for "common prosperity."
Former fisherman from central China's Henan province said he had arrived in Beijing last year, knowing his 21-year-old son Yue Yuetong had served as a cook in the capital.
Originally, he took different duties from garbage collection to moving construction materials, and is now the main breadwinner for a six-person household, including his paralysed father.
Yue, who is being treated in a Beijing hospital, said that since his disappearance in August 2020 he had worked in several provinces searching for him.
"I don't think I'm pitiful, but I want to do my work well rather than steal or rob, rely on my own strength, my own two hands, make some money, and find my son," he told China Weekly News.
According to a report obtained by Yue to the state-run Beijing News, the son of Yue, who turns 21 this year, and is among China's roughly 285 million migrant workers who move to cities seeking employment and a better life.
A police station in Rongcheng has stated that it was conducting an investigation.
As China prepares for the Lunar New Year's Eve holiday, Reuters was unable to reach Yue, whose story emerged as the United Nations is on alert for the presence of the Omicron variant and as COVID-19 outbreaks again disrupt travel expectations.
Several social media users drew attention to the disparity between Yue's movements and another recent COVID-19 incident in Beijing who went to a ski resort and a jewelry store before testing positive for the virus.
"I don't know if 'common prosperity' is a false word, but it's the government's duty to ensure every worker can live respectfully," said another Weibo user.
($1 = 6.3432 Chinese yuan renminbi)