Xinhua Headlines: Life keeps getting better for ethnic minority relocated from the mountains

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-14 10:46:42|Editor: huaxia
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NANNING, July 14 (Xinhua) -- As a new day begins, Li Mingqiang prepares breakfast for his children and feeds the chickens before leaving to work on a construction site.

Li can earn about 80 yuan (12 U.S. dollars) a day, much less than he used to make in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, where he was a migrant worker. But after moving to his new house, he said goodbye to a life adrift in big cities and stayed at home to take care of his sick wife and their six kids.

Li Mingqiang is a member of the Baiku Yao People, or the White-Pants Yao People, an ethnic minority known for their white-colored pants. His new house is located in Baxu District in Nandan County, in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is one of the three major districts in the county chosen by the government to relocate the Baiku Yao People from the mountains.

China has about 50,000 Baiku Yao People, and 42,000 of them reside in Nandan County. The minority has kept its culture intact, and is known as "living fossils of human civilization." Many of the Baiku Yao People used to live in the bare rock mountains, with poor transport infrastructure and rare education resources, keeping them in poverty for years.

However, thanks to a government relocation plan, the people have bid farewell to their poverty and moved into new houses.


The rock mountains that the Baiku Yao People used to live in are part of the poorest areas in China. Locals used to make ends meet by growing corn in the cracks of the rock mountains.

"In the past, we did not have enough to eat or clothes to keep warm," said Li, 40. "People simply ate corn most of the time, and many suffered from malnutrition."

Li's family used to live in a mud shack with simple, old household items. A small TV set was the most valuable thing in the house. Beds were made of tree branches and wood.

"When it was cold in winter, we burnt wood to warm ourselves," he said. Most locals lived in similar ramshackle houses. When it rained, the houses leaked and wind blew through. "There was simply no way we could receive proper education, and I could not even speak Mandarin."

Li later went to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, to seek better-paying jobs. He could make about 2,000 yuan a month, barely enough to cover the family expenses.


As the rock mountains were not suitable for living, the local government decided to relocate the Baiku Yao People to help lift them out of poverty.

In 2017, the county government pumped 1.37 billion yuan in relief funds to build three major resettling residential districts in the county to accommodate the ethnic people, with about 13,500 people moving there. Most of those living in the mountains moved into the county center, beginning a new phase of their lives.

"Before the government launched the relocation plan, they considered our conditions seriously," said Li Shifei, a member of the Baiku Yao People. "They wanted to help us out of poverty with relocation, and at the same time they also respected our ideas."

A door-to-door survey was conducted about where to move the minority. Eventually, the government chose sites not too far away from their old houses, so that the people could go back to where they lived to grow crops in the day, and return to their new houses at night.

More than 2,400 new houses were built with cultural features of the Baiku Yao People, with bronze drums and oxhorns painted on the walls. Kindergartens, primary and middle schools and hospitals have been established in these districts.

"These days, my children only need to walk for 20 minutes to reach school, and their lunches are covered by the government," said Li Mingqiang. "They are also exempt from tuition fees."

In his new house, Li has learned to use liquefied gas and an electric rice cooker.

He Wenbing, another local resident, is content with his new house.

"My family live in this 159-square-meter house, and life is so much easier," he said. "The school and the hospital are within walking distance."

He even transformed the first floor of his house into a grocery store. He also helps send parcels for his neighbors, which gives him some extra perks.

The government also stepped up investment in healthcare in the districts, reimbursing 50 percent of the local healthcare system cost and covering all medical expenses for those with basic living allowances.

To help bring the life conditions to the next level, local authorities are betting on tourism to empower the Baiku Yao People. For instance, the three relocation districts have also become tourist attractions with ethnic culture.

Locals have been encouraged to do ethnic performances for tourists and develop homestays. Wearing their distinctive white pants, the Baiku Yao People fire guns in the air, play drums and whip tops to welcome tourists from afar.

According to official estimates, the tourism sector there will generate an annual revenue of 100 million yuan by 2020, with each participant expected to receive about 3,500 yuan a month.

"We want every member of the Baiku Yao People to live better lives," said Wei Yongshan, the secretary of the county commission of the Communist Party of China. "It is our responsibility." Enditem