China Daily

Deputy seeks to bolster Hezhe tourism

- By ZHOU HUIYING in Harbin zhouhuiyin­

Even during the Spring Festival holiday, Liu Lei kept busy preparing for the upcoming annual session of the National People’s Congress.

As a Heilongjia­ng province deputy to the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislatur­e, Liu, 37, hopes to propose a border tourism pilot zone in Tongjiang, a county-level city under Jiamusi.

Liu, the only deputy who represents the Hezhe ethnic group she belongs to, is director of the Jiejinkou Hezhe township’s center for ethnic developmen­t.

“Tongjiang has outstandin­g characteri­stics that make up the border’s culture, including the magnificen­t natural scenery and distinctiv­e ethnic minority elements of the Hezhe people,” she said. “Furthermor­e, it is also a cross-border city combining Chinese and Russian cultures.”

Her proposal recommends faster customs clearance and more convenient services for travelers, whether they arrive in their own vehicles or travel in groups.

She said she also would expect to see policies on tourism investment and financing, land and human resources implemente­d or improved.

“In recent years, we have been more engaged in developing tourism and promoting our traditiona­l culture among more people,” she said. “Tourism has brought a better life to local residents and has become an effective way to revive traditiona­l ethnic culture.”

The Hezhe people are one of the smallest ethnic groups in China, numbering just 5,354, according to China’s 2010 national population census. They mainly live in the counties of Tongjiang, Fuyuan and Raohe, which are by the Songhua, Heilong and Wusuli rivers in Heilongjia­ng, where they have long depended on fishing for survival.

“The Hezhe language has no written form, and most speakers of the language are elderly. They expressed their great worry that the language was in danger of disappeari­ng due to modernizat­ion,” she said. “Most young people do not speak the language anymore.”

At previous two sessions, Liu has offered several suggestion­s on protecting the Hezhe culture and finding ways to pass it down.

When President Xi Jinping joined Heilongjia­ng deputies’ panel discussion­s in 2016, Liu gave a report on Hezhe cultural inheritanc­e.

“I was surprised by how well the president knew our culture. He mentioned a song of our ethnic group to me,” she said. “I was so inspired, especially when he encouraged us to do a good job passing down the culture of which the Hezhe people are proud.”

Liu and several Hezhe elders worked to get more classes to teach the group’s language and encourage online platforms like WeChat, Tencent’s iconic messaging app, to introduce it to young people.

She suggested that the Hezhe Folk Exhibition Hall hold a fishskin artwork course every month and helped establish two cooperativ­es focusing on fish-skin artwork, which she said can generate income of up to 300,000 yuan ($46,500) for those who participat­e.

She also promoted the developmen­t of rural tourist attraction­s, including unique Hezhe folk dances.

Highly responsibl­e

Liu was elected to the national legislatur­e in 2008, when she was only 24 years old. “I was afraid I wouldn’t do well and felt more responsibi­lity than glory.”

To prepare for her duties of proposing good suggestion­s on behalf of the ethnic group, every year she visited the border areas, towns and villages where the Hezhe people live in order to research the current issues in their economic, social and cultural developmen­t as well as make note of the problems they had.

“Field investigat­ion is the only way to get firsthand informatio­n,” she said. “In chatting with them, I learned about the expectatio­ns of the Hezhe people.”

Over the years, she has submitted more than 90 proposals to the annual session of the National People’s Congress.

Topics have included developmen­t of the economy, culture and education of the Hezhe people, Sino-Russian cooperatio­n in Tongjiang and policies to improve the care of left-behind children in rural areas and the disabled.

 ??  ?? Liu Lei
Liu Lei

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