Every year, a torrent of people flows from major cities to all corners of China for the Lunar New Year. Some 1.8 billion will board trains, buses and boats to go home for the holiday, returning to work within a 40-day period. After jostling through the pandemonium at stations, travellers endure 20 to 30 hours in a hard seat, with every inch of extra space taken up by people standing. Together, they are locked in rubbish-strewn carriages, sharing filthy toilets, and often witnessing injury and even death as people are trampled over. The hardship attests to the remarkable endurance of Chinese travellers. It was in those sardine-can-like compartments that Sars first spread from the south to the north two years ago, when people returned from the holiday. This year, adding to their physical hardship, is the fare increase of 15 to 20 per cent, which the Railway Ministry blithely justified as 'using market mechanisms to regulate volume'. Yet the higher fare does nothing towards solving the problem of ticket scalping. All too often a sign says 'all tickets sold out' at the counter, but they are still available from the legions of scalpers - at an exorbitant premium. But neither the hellish sanitation conditions nor the higher fares can dampen the enthusiasm of homebound travellers. One migrant worker was quoted as saying that even if he had to sell his blood, he would find the money to pay for his trip. Students usually enjoy a slight advantage, as many universities help to organise advanced bookings and even charter trains for popular destinations. This year, the students are being ushered out of Beijing, in case their staying behind should spell trouble in the wake of former premier Zhao Ziyang's death. Most have no personal memory of Zhao, following his house arrest after the Tiananmen massacre, but he was revered through word of mouth as a leader who really cared about the students. Transcripts of the heart-wrenching speech he gave to the students in the square has been widely circulated, and some poignant lines have been learned by heart. It was Zhao's last public appearance before he was stripped of power. But the moment has not been tarnished with the passage of time. Outpourings of grief turned into mass rallies following the death of Zhou Enlai in 1976 and Hu Yaobang in 1989. The memories and pain, held back since June 4, 1989, are waiting to come out through the mourning of Zhao's death. The students may not have the occasion to hold a memorial service, but safely homebound, many know that, in death, Zhao is watching over them.