Extraordinary journey of 'ordinary Chinese citizen'

Zhu Junlong, the mixed-race newborn abandoned 18 years ago and raised by an adoptive grandma is now a computer science freshman at Shanghai Jian Qiao University. 
Extraordinary journey of  'ordinary Chinese citizen'
Ti Gong

In his dormitory at Shanghai Jian Qiao University yesterday, Zhu Junlong is ready for student life.

Zhu Junlong, is quite the reluctant folk hero. The mixed-race newborn abandoned 18 years ago and raised by an adoptive grandma is now a computer science freshman at Shanghai Jian Qiao University. It has been a very long journey.

“I am an ordinary Chinese citizen with special skin color,” Zhu said. “I will work hard on my studies here, find a normal job and live a regular life like anyone else.”

Zhu is a little shy and somewhat wary of the media attention which returns to haunt him at every rite of passage, but his story is a remarkable one.

On August 8, 2000, Zhu Shuibao, a resident of the Pudong New Area, found a baby in a bamboo basket in an alleyway. There was a note attached saying he was born on August 1.

“I feel pity for stray cats and dogs, not to mention a baby,” said 74-year-old Zhu. “Since I found him, I have believed there is a special bond between us.”

She took the boy home and tried to clean him. After about a week, he was still much darker than other Chinese babies no matter how much she washed him. Zhu took him to a hospital, where doctors said he was mixed-race.

Although living in straitened circumstances, Zhu decided to raise him and the whole family supported her.

Zhu had two sons and a daughter but no grandchildren at that time. At first, her younger son and daughter-in-law took care of Junlong, but they had their own son a year later. Granny Zhu and her husband took Junlong back and he lived with them until last week, when he went to university.

Extraordinary journey of  'ordinary Chinese citizen'

A montage of family photos put together in November 2007 shows some other milestones in the life of the boy from the bamboo basket, Granny Zhu and other family members.

“Having lived together for so many years, our home is so empty now,” said Zhu. “I used to get up at night to tell him to stop using the computer and go to bed. Although he is not at home now, I still wake up. I’m worried whether he is able to take care of himself because he has never washed a piece of clothing or a dish at home.”

Though Junlong is now an adult, Granny Zhu still calls him by his nickname “Baobao,” baby in Chinese.

“I love Baobao as much as my biological grandchildren and even treat him better as he lacks the love from his natural parents,” said Zhu. “Every time I get snacks or treats, I ask Baobao to pick his first.”

The past 18 years were not easy but the biggest trouble was getting him into school.

Without having gone through any official adoption process, Junlong had no hukou, or residence permit, so he was rejected by all the kindergartens and schools they tried.

Undaunted, Zhu argued with local authorities and finally had him enrolled. Meanwhile, she began to seek a hukou for the boy, finally having success in 2014 when he was 13. Junlong was now entitled to social security, education and other welfare services, and an adoption certificate was issued, making their family relationship legal.

Zhu said Junlong was quiet as a baby but very difficult as a child, and he was not easy to take care of.

“I had never seen such a naughty child.” she said. “It seemed that he was never scared of anything. He had been bitten by dogs, fought with other boys and was always hiding.

“When he was 3 or 4 years old, it was my birthday. The whole family was ready to have celebratory noodles but he was absent. Everyone went out to look for him and we found him fishing for crayfish without an adult companion. I was frightened because he might have drowned.”

But Zhu became better behaved in middle school, enrolled in vocational school and managed to enter university this year. In three years he will have a junior college degree and the chance to go on to do a bachelor’s degree.

Junlong calls himself a “fat homeboy” as he is about 100 kilograms. He likes playing computer games and reading novels at home.

Extraordinary journey of  'ordinary Chinese citizen'
Ti Gong

Zhu Shuibao and Zhu Junlong read together in November 2007.

He mainly eats vegetables rather than meat, but he has a big appetite and is very strong.

He said his color troubled him when he was a little boy as there were not so many foreigners in Shanghai, but now people no longer stare at him as the city has become much more cosmopolitan.

His teachers helped a lot to encourage him to get along with other kids when he was a child. Now he has a lot of friends.

Sometimes, foreigners turn to him for help.

“My English is not very good,” he said. “For complicated questions, my younger brother does better than me.”

As for university life, Junlong said grandma was more excited than him.

“I call her every day so she knows how I’m doing,” he said.

He is now undergoing military training and life is much more disciplined than at home.

“It’s exhausting and hot, I guess I have lost 5 kilograms,” he said.

Junlong’s tuition is more than 20,000 yuan (US$2,900) a year, while his grandparents now live on pensions of just 5,000 yuan a month. Zhu said the family would try their best to ensure he finishes his studies.

“My only wish is that he takes good care of himself and becomes useful to society and the country,” said Zhu. “I hope China will be a warm home for him.”

Junlong said he was not interested in finding his biological parents as “they mean nothing to me now.”

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