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West China

Feature: "Motorbike officials" work for change in China's remote mountain towns

2018-03-20 09:03:40

GUIYANG, March 19 (Xinhua) -- A thermos, a map, a straw hat and a motorbike -- these are the tools of the trade for Xie Yuwen, an official in Jianga, the southernmost town in Zhenning County, southwest China's Guizhou Province.

The rugged terrain has kept people in hilly areas of Guizhou from prospering, and Jianga is among 20 towns in the province listed as "extremely poor." The narrow winding trails aren't suitable for cars, so motorbikes are the only way for local officials like Xie to run errands.

Grassroots officials seldom get a break. In the first week after this year's Spring Festival holiday, Xie traveled by motorbike to help extinguish five forest fires, which he thinks were caused by firecrackers and fireworks set off by local residents.

"I always keep my mobile phone on," Xie said. "I'm ready to leave without any delay once a problem is reported."

Xie bought his first motorbike in 2002.

"Over the past 16 years, I have had six motorbikes break. The one I ride now was purchased last year and I have already driven it over 20,000 km," he said.

Motorbikes have brought Xie to every corner of the town, and the same could be said of Yang Qinghuai.

Yang has been working in Moshang Village and traveling by motorbike for three years. So far he has ridden 68,960 km.

"The circumference of the Earth at the equator is about 40,076 km, which means I have driven a distance equivalent to 1.5 times around the equator," Yang said.

Sometimes it is not the mountains that keep people in poverty, but mindset. "Persuading local residents to change their mind is the first step in doing our jobs," Yang said. And it cannot be done without his motorbike.

Wei Tingquan lives with his two children in a dilapidated leaky house. His wife left him several years ago. But when Yang came in 2014 to persuade Wei into applying for a renovation project for his house, Wei rejected it. Wei said any construction work at the house is incompatible with his "Bazi" astrological chart, which some people believe determines their destiny.

Yang has worked hard to change Wei's beliefs. He drove to his house at least five times in two years and always stopped to talk with him whenever they met in the village. Finally, Wei's family moved to their new house in 2016 and Wei remarried soon after that.

Riding a motorbike in the mountains can be dangerous.

"It is common to have accidents," said Xie. Xie had a serious accident in 2004 during a visit to a village and was hospitalized for almost two months. Though his family was against him riding the motorbike again, Xie hit the road again soon after his recovery. After all, he didn't have much choice.

There are 56 motorbike officials in Jianga Town, according to Rao Sihong, party secretary of the township.

"We have more roads now, so the number of motorbike officials is declining. But they still play an important role in poverty reduction and their journey continues," Rao said.

Editor:Jiang Yiwei