Life improves for residents of China's smallest township

Updated 2017-10-31 11:31:55 Xinhua

Earlier this month, Yangzom and her sister wrote a letter to President Xi Jinping, telling him their experiences in safeguarding the border area and the development of their township over the years. To their surprise, they received a reply.

In the letter delivered on Saturday, Xi has encouraged the herding family to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown.

He acknowledged the family's efforts to safeguard the territory, and thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area.

"Making ourselves heard has reaffirmed our determination to continue safeguarding the border territory from our hometown," said Yangzom, 55, from Yumai Township, Tibet Autonomous Region.

Yumai is China's smallest township with only nine households and a population of 32. Located on the foothills of the Himalayas near the border with India, the township is some 200 kilometers from the county seat of Lhunze.

Winter there lasts more than half a year, with the township isolated from November to June.

When rapid development began in Tibet in the early 1990s, most of households left the township to seek a better life. Yangzom's family was the only household within an area of around 2,000 square kilometers.

Yangzom remembers when she was young crying with her sister that they also wanted to move, but their father refused.

"He said if we left as well our hometown would be uninhabited and be lost," she recalls.

China has invested heavily in border construction, infrastructure projects and border subsidies that have improved livelihoods for residents.

Yangzom's family has opened a grocery store to sell goods to Buddhist pilgrims who come to circumambulate the mountain.

The family's annual income, made up of herding, grocery store revenue and government subsidies, which includes the border allowance and subsidy for grassland protection, now exceeds 100,000 yuan (15,000 U.S. dollars).

A concrete road was built into Yumai in 2011, the same year the township was lifted above the poverty line. WiFi is available across entire township, enabling family inns to accept mobile payments.

Dawa, party head of the township, said the average per capita income reached 50,000 yuan last year, approximately 30 percent of which comes from government subsidies.

"As improved transportation infrastructure has also raised incomes from herding, transport and small businesses, our lives are getting better and better," he said.

According to Dawa, the government plans to relocate another 47 households from nearby areas to the township, and spend 80 million yuan to upgrade road, water and power supply infrastructure.

"A higher population will increase the level of human activity in the area, which will be helpful in safeguarding our territory," he said.

This year, Yangzom's son, Soinam Toinzhub, became the town's first university graduate.

"I would like to return to my hometown to safeguard our territory, like my grandfather and mother before me," he said.

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