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Seniors keeping border secure

By ZHOU HUIYING in Harbin | China Daily | Updated: 2022-04-08 08:31

Han Shuxiu and Xue Kui patrol the border area around Jinchanggou village in Dongning, Heilongjiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

After half a century, vigilant Heilongjiang couple remain devoted to their work

Over the past five decades, Han Shuxiu, 70, and her husband Xue Kui, 74, have spent untold hours volunteering to patrol the border area around Jinchanggou village in Dongning, a county-level city on the China-Russia border under the administration of Mudanjiang in Heilongjiang province.

Han and Xue met in the village after they moved from Shandong province with their families in the 1960s.

After marrying in May 1971, the young couple were invited to help local border police with patrols around the village.

"You have got your own family in the village, and you will have a better life if the border is secure," Han recalled Li Zhongjian, former director of Sanchakou Border Police Station, telling the couple during his visit to the village. "You are familiar with the local situation and residents, so I believe you will become our best assistants."

The station is located in Sanchakou town, around 40 kilometers from the small and remote village.

Without a moment's hesitation, the couple agreed. They are responsible for preventing illegal border crossings and hunting, as well as maintaining border facilities.

Even though they have now lived in Northeast China for over 60 years, it took time to get used to working in the extreme cold at first.

"It is really cold in winter, especially in the mountains, where morning temperatures can be as low as -35 C," Han said. "Moreover, heavy snow can sometimes reach up to our knees. It is hard to walk quickly in thick snow. Our shoes become soaked through after a couple of hours."

They also had a few memorable brushes with danger over the years.

"We had close encounters with wild animals, like bears and wild boars, and we came across floods in the summer," she said. "Fortunately, we weren't injured."

Over the years, they have stopped several people who nearly crossed the border by mistake and have prevented 30 people from poaching.

They have also repaired the wire fences along the border, which are frequently damaged by wild animals. The couple have also provided a warm shelter for generations of officers from the police station.

During the spring and summer, when villagers go into the mountains to collect mushrooms and fruit, and during the traditional hunting season in the winter, officers from the station spend at least two weeks around Jinchanggou as they patrol the area.

Because the station hasn't posted a permanent office in the village, the couple cleaned out a room in their house for patrolmen to use as their dormitory and office. Han also takes note of their dietary habits and prepares meals for them every day.

Last summer, Li Mingxue, an ethnic Korean police officer, came to the village for duty.

As Shandong natives, the couple have a habit of eating steamed buns. But Han found that Li didn't like them, so she asked her son to buy an electric rice cooker from Dongning.

"In my eyes, all the police offers are like my sons," Han said. "I'm happy when I see them eating well and sleeping well."

There are no hospitals or drugstores in the village. The couple have learned to distinguish medicinal herbs that they find in nearby mountains. They use them to give the officers folk remedies to treat mild illnesses and injuries.

Inspired by the couple's dedication, Xue Lianjun, their third son who is working in nearby Dongdachuan Forestry Farm, often helps them patrol in his spare time.

"We have walked at least 100,000 km along the border over the years," Xue said. "We won't stop until the day we can't move."

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