A heart-wrenching story of a young man from Fujian province whose family unknowingly bought him a ticket to hell.

Chen Rong, a 19-year-old coach passenger on a flight from Paris to Miami, wasn’t the person his passport said he was. The man described in the passport was older, married, born in Hong Kong and a British citizen.

The teenager in the seat was baby-faced, naive and, given that he was about to enter the United States illegally, understandably nervous. But he remembered the specific instructions he received before boarding the plane.

So Chen got up from his seat, stepped into the bathroom and, as he recalls, tore the British passport into little pieces and threw it in the trash, eliminating the last shreds of a paper life that had cost his family $65,000 to obtain. Somewhere over the Atlantic, Chen became a man without papers and without a country, all his possessions contained in a single carry-on bag. He was apprehensive, but he was ready to start a new life in the United States, like so many other successful Chinese emigrants he had heard about back home.

If Chen had known at that moment what he knows now, he would have wished for the plane to turn around. He did not know that, less than two years later, in 2006, he would be working more than 80 hours a week at a small Chinese restaurant in downtown Baltimore, with little chance of ever living a normal American life. He did not know that one day he would be crying on the telephone to his parents in southeastern China, asking, “Why did you send me this way?”

He didn’t leave home out of desperation. The son of a businessman and a doting mother who sent him to one of the better high schools in the city, he had prospects in China that would almost certainly have been better than those he has here.

The long article looks at what moves these people to seek out snakeheads and pay them huge sums of money, and how afterwards they are left helpless and hopeless, forced to live as indentured servants. There’s no happy ending, and it sounds like Chen is a dead man walking, still alive but with no hope of a life. Alas, man’s inhumanity to man….if you can call a snakehead a man.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

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November 20, 2006 @ 12:33 am | Comment

Hasn’t information about the evil of the snakeheads’ been pretty well known for quite some time now? I mean, doesn’t the average Chinese citizen know about this crap? Frankly I’m as pissed at this guy’s mother as I am the snakehead.

November 20, 2006 @ 8:11 am | Comment

I agree Chip. I do think that the illusions of an amazing “life in America” has become somewhat rusted in recent years, which I’m sure has cut into snakeheads’ business… but there’s always going to be selling “the dream” to people and then scamming them out of their money.

November 20, 2006 @ 10:54 am | Comment

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