‘China as A Country Is Rich, Yet Its Citizens Are Poor’

Fei Yang’s (pseudonym) family has been on the road since 2019. As the Chinese economy faltered, his small e-commerce business could no longer sustain his family. He, his wife and two children first went to Thailand. Later, he learned that some of his friends were arrested because of their critical speech online. Yang then took his family to Africa, where they lived for two years before leaving for Latin America and joining a caravan of migrants walking to the United States.

Fei Yang (pseudonym), Migrant: We are a family of four. Now, we are at the U.S.- Mexico border. We were in the caravan for two days, starting on November 18 [2021]. But it was so hot, my kids couldn’t bear it anymore. So, we bought a scooter. … It was 16,000 pesos, roughly $800. We rode it for 11 days, roughly 2,400 kilometers.

We got out of China in 2019 and first landed in Thailand. When we were preparing to go back to China for the Lunar New Year, I learned that some of my friends disappeared for no reason. Later, I came to know that they were arrested.

Reporter: Why?

Fei Yang: Because of some comments they made online that were critical of the government. I was afraid, so I didn’t want to go back to China. We then traveled to Africa and stayed for two years. But there’s no way to get residency in Africa, and the governments are usually close with the Chinese Communist Party, so we started to think about moving again.

We began our journey to the U.S. in 2021, starting from Ecuador. We went through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica. Then Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala. Then Mexico. And finally, we reached America.

Reporter: How old are your kids?

Fei Yang: They are 4 and 6. The older one understands everything we went through. We told them that we were going to have a jungle adventure. We entered the rainforest from Colombia, and the original plan was to go through it in five days. Yet after two days, we ran out of money, and the guide wouldn’t take us anymore. We were stranded in Pito [Panama]. People in nearby villages shared their food with us. We then had a laptop with us, so we sold it to the villagers for $300. And there, we started again.

Reporter: Why would you take such a big risk to come to America?

Fei Yang: Mainly because China’s economy is slowing down. I was in e-commerce, selling sports goods online. Things got worse year by year. At first, the revenue was several million RMB [renminbi]. Then it became 1 million. And later, it’s several hundred thousand. China as a country is rich, yet its citizens are poor.

When I was in college, my classmates downloaded videos about the Tiananmen protests. We watched and were left in shock. I couldn’t believe how cruel the government was. … I was angry and speechless.

We don’t intend to go back to China. Our kids are approaching school age, and we don’t want them to be brainwashed … such as the narrative that only the Communist Party can save China. I don’t want them to be exposed to that. They will be receiving an education here.