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China's northernmost police officer befriends villagers

By ZHOU HUIYING in Harbin | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-01-18 10:40

Shi Xianqiang and his wife Shen Xin patrol in Luoguhe village, Mohe, Heilongjiang province. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

The resident officer at China's northernmost police office, Shi Xianqiang, has spent untold hours patrolling a 44-kilometer stretch of the border with Russia in Heilongjiang province and protecting the safety of villagers in Luoguhe since he took up the post in July 2020.

Luoguhe, a small, remote village 100 kilometers from downtown Mohe, the country's northernmost city, has 47 households and around 100 residents.

The city, the coldest place in China, posted a record low of -52.3 C in 1956.

The village marks the start of the Heilong River, the country's third longest after the Yangtze and Yellow rivers and the longest border waterway in the world.

It is a quiet place where time seems to stand still. The village is blanketed by snow for half the year, and a single highway connects it to downtown Mohe.

Shi, 33, and his wife Shen Xin, 27, who was appointed as his assistant, are responsible for border management, maintaining public order and running the household registration system.

Their office and house are located at the entrance to the village, which has no hospital, barbershop, public toilets or entertainment venues.

To familiarize himself with the village, Shi drew a map with details about all the villagers.

The couple also spent lots of time inspecting the village and along the river. Within a month of their arrival, they had gotten to know every household in the village.

"I felt a little regretful to miss the chance to become a police officer after graduating from Jilin Police College," Shen said. "Now I am quite happy and honored to assist my husband with my professional knowledge."

There is no school in the village, and children studying elsewhere return home when the summer vacation starts.

It is also the busiest season for villagers to go into the mountains to collect forest products, such as wild mushrooms, black fungus and blueberries.

During the holiday, the couple brought to their office the children who were left alone at home and took care of them, allowing their parents to focus on work.

Last summer, the village experienced heavy rain and flooding.

During an evacuation after heavy rain, Wang Yingmin, 52, refused to leave her house because she wanted to take her 100 chickens with her.

"Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, there were fewer tourists visiting our village last year and the egg-laying chickens had become my main income source," she said. "Therefore, I insisted on carrying them in cages."

Shi said villagers live in a type of traditional Russian-style house known as a mukeleng, built using logs that are coated with mud.

"The homes are warm in winter and cool in summer, but they become quite dangerous during floods," he said.

Shi promised Wang he would ensure the safety of all the chickens and persuaded her to get on the truck evacuating residents.

After she arrived at the temporary shelter, she was surprised to see Shi, together with all her chickens and some bloodstains on his hands and arms.

"The chickens bit me when I tried to catch them," Shi said. "However, protecting the safety of all the villagers is most important."

To help villagers increase their incomes, the couple worked together with the village committee, applying for government poverty alleviation funds to build a chicken farm able to hold 15,000 birds.

They also helped the village obtain 300,000 yuan ($47,200) in public welfare funds for infrastructure construction, including the renovation of the activity center for seniors and dilapidated houses and the reconstruction of village roads.

On Jan 10, Shi and 19 other officers were honored with the title of Most Beautiful Grassroots Police Officer. The honor is given by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Ministry of Public Security.

For the upcoming Spring Festival, the couple will stick to their posts.

"We spent last Spring Festival together with the villagers and I believe it will be another unforgettable festival," Shi said. "In Luoguhe, there is a custom that when a family slaughters a pig for the festival, they invite their relatives and close friends to have dinner with them. Last winter, I was invited dozens of times.

"I feel honored that the villagers consider me as a friend and even a part of their families."

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