Re­turnees bring home­town back to life

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHENG JINRAN

Hav­ing worked and lived in Bei­jing for years, Wu Peis­han de­cided to change di­rec­tion and ded­i­cate her­self to the sim­ple life — bee­keep­ing in her home­town of Yichun, Hei­long jiang prov­ince. In the process, she dra­mat­i­cally lifted her in­come and that of others.

“My home­town is known as the ‘for­est cap­i­tal’ and has high qual­ity honey be­cause of the vast for­est, but few peo­ple know that, and many pre­fer to pay a lot of money to buy im­ported honey,” said Wu, 35. “That’s un­for­tu­nate.”

Forests cover 84.4 per­cent of Yichun’s 33,000 square kilo­me­ters, mak­ing it one of the green­est ci­ties in China.

Wu worked with bee­keep­ers to pro­duce sealed ma­ture honey, which con­tains no addi-

EN­VI­RON­MENT

YEARS ON

Many peo­ple go far away to dig for gold, but they ignore the trea­sure in front of their door.” Wu Peis­han, bee­keeper in Yichun, Hei­longjiang prov­ince

tives, and then sell it for 1,000 yuan ($149) per kilo­gram. They are able to ask a high price be­cause of the pol­lu­tion­free en­vi­ron­ment from which it comes.

The bee­keep­ers’ earn­ings have at least dou­bled since they started work­ing with Wu.

“Many peo­ple go far away to dig for gold, but they ignore the trea­sure in front of their door,” she said. “In Yichun, there is a huge po­ten­tial for devel­op­ment.”

She said she and others plan to build a spe­cial town with a honey theme, where vis­i­tors can en­joy the green for­est and ex­pe­ri­ence the honey-mak­ing process and other ac­tiv­i­ties.

The city’s pop­u­la­tion has shrunk from more than 1.3 mil­lion be­fore 2000 to 1.21 mil­lion, mainly be­cause of a de­clin­ing log­ging in­dus­try.

“But we have con­fi­dence that many will come back as we boost our econ­omy,” said Han Ku, the city’s mayor.

Many other skilled young work­ers plan to start new com­pa­nies.

In July, the city gov­ern­ment in­vited many Yichun-born en­trepreneurs to re­turn and found many to be en­thu­si­as­tic. Others have re­turned to find jobs at new plants.

Gao Chun­lei re­turned af­ter 11 years to make sculp­tures in a fac­tory — “be­cause I earn more and have more ben­e­fits”.

Zhou Liy­ong, owner of the plant where Gao works, said he gives work­ers bet­ter wel­fare ben­e­fits to keep them with the com­pany.

“We need them dur­ing our ex­pan­sion,” Zhou said.

CHAI CHENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Wu Peis­han (right), a bee­keeper in Yichun, Hei­longjiang prov­ince, checks the sta­tus of the bees and honey on her farm last month. Wu re­turned to her home­town from Bei­jing to start the bee­keep­ing busi­ness in 2014.

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