THIS year was the first time that 16-year-old Wang Jiahua spent the Spring Festival holiday alone. The boy said he had to leave home under pressure from his parents, teachers and classmates after they found out he is gay.
For a long time, homosexuality has been taboo in China. Gay people face pressure, criticism and discrimination from society, with some calling them abnormal. Wang is no exception.
Even though he had conflicts with his family and friends, he decided to buy a train ticket to his home in Panyu in Guangdong Province for a Spring Festival family reunion.
Before he could buy a ticket, he had his wallet stolen at an Internet cafe and lost all his cash, more than 3,000 yuan (US$483).
On a chilly night in late January, the boy stepped into the rescue station in the Pudong New Area, asking for help.
However, his father refused to pick Wang up to take him back home after staff members of the station contacted him.
The boy said he found he had a different sexual orientation about a year ago after he realized he had a special affection toward a male classmate. He said he was afraid and searched online for an answer.
He became convinced he is gay. At the same time, his secret was uncovered by his classmates and parents.
"My father kept educating and persuading. My mother scolded me continuously. My classmates stopped talking with me and my teachers asked my parents to make me drop out," said Wang, who is a single child.
He started leaving home for days at a time as things became unbearable. Finally, he could not take it anymore.
"I can no longer bear the great pressure and I was not understood," he said. "I made my family members feel pain and disgraced them, thus they dislike me."
Wang said he was lost, but he had made up his mind to stick to his path. "I was born with it, and I cannot change the fact. Happy or painful, I choose to be faithful to my heart."
He said he had a boyfriend, but they broke up.
Wang traveled to Shanghai in October and found a job as a waiter at a local restaurant.
At the shelter, he was silent and declined to discuss his plight. But workers at the station said he was a good boy. Wang was polite and always helped workers clean up rooms and prepare meals. He played a role of "brother" among other children at the station.
After he was transferred to the Shanghai Rescue Station, Wang had a good Chinese New Year's Eve dinner. He had no family around, only three homeless people, all strangers who had no choice but to stay at the station like him.
"I miss home," Wang said sadly.
"Wang is smart, good-tempered and modest," said Guo Ju, a worker at the station. Guo was confused as to why Wang did not study, left home and his parents rejected him.
He tried to open Wang's heart but failed again and again.
"It is not uncommon that disobedient children leave home after quarreling with parents, but parents usually rush to take their children back home," Guo said.
His care and patience gradually won the trust of Wang. The teen told him his secret.
"I don't want to be disliked, but I thought 'Uncle Guo' would understand," Wang said.
Guo kept silent for a while after learning the story.
"It would be very difficult for me to accept the fact if my son were gay," Guo said.
He suggested Wang go back to school first and avoid conflict with his parents.
"Love should not affect your normal life," he told Wang.
Guo called for more tolerance from the society.
"We hope parents and teachers can give more tolerance and care for this group of children and create a healthy environment for their growth," he said.
Wang said he will go home before the Lantern Festival on February 24 with a ticket bought by the station workers.
He hopes to work as a disc jockey in the future. "I will try to get along with my family members," Wang said.