The photo of a 12-year-old flood relief volunteer caked in flour powder and lying against mountains of drinking water bottles has gone viral, igniting an online debate about whether kids that young should be allowed to undergo physically-challenging tasks, even if voluntarily.
The picture was taken in Suide County in the city of Yulin, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, which was battered with a major flood last month.
Hu Zhibo, the boy caught on camera, was the youngest volunteer on the site helping with disaster relief efforts.
Hu had no idea who snapped the picture, but at the moment the shutter was clicked, he had just finished unloading 70 bags of flour, together with others. The task was so tiring that he had to take a nap, his mother recalled.
“This boy is well-taught. He not only has a good heart, but also puts kindness in his actions. Good for you, little boy! ” said a user of China's Twitter-like Weibo, who goes by the name @qiaqiahelanlan.
However, those who were concerned about Hu’s health thought the different way, arguing that he was too young to do such a laborious work.
“Where were the adults? Overworking for a long time could have a negative impact on the boy’s health,” commented another named @yueguangdezheshe
“He did it voluntarily,” Hu’s mother told local media outlets. He worked nearly 10 hours a day and never stopped since July 28, she added.
Hu also argued that as a junior high school student, he should not be taken like a kid anymore. While it's hard, the work is absolutely worthwhile, he said.
The flood, triggered by relentless rain in the area, has left six dead and 86 others injured. By July 30, the economic loss had been estimated at about 230 million yuan (34 million US dollars).