November 6, 2009 was a day like any other for most people, but for the villagers of Xiaogang, it was the day their beloved party chief, Shen Hao passed away.
At the sad news President Hu Jintao expressed his deep grief over Shen Hao’ death and conveyed his sympathy to the family and Xiaogang villagers despite the fact that Shen was only the late first secretary of the CPC Xiaogang Village Committee, Fengyang County, Chizhou City Anhui Province.
Why was the general secretary so concerned about one rural cadre at the grassroots?
Shen Hao, a grassroots cadre, being designated from the bustling city to work in the remote rural areas, wrote an unusual life history of an ordinary “village official” with the short life of 45 years. More than 20 days after his death, our correspondents visited Xiaogang village, listening to a series of moving stories about a Communist Party member and a village cadre who racked his brains for better serving the people and kept his solemn promise of being faithful to the party.
Shen Hao was assigned to Xiaogang Village to act as the village party chief in February, 2004. Ever since he began to work in the village, he kept in mind the work related to every household. In the eyes of Xiaogang villagers, Shen Hao was simply a “native Xiaogang villager”.
Shen Hao was born and grew up in the countryside. When he was a child, his father died. He considered working for the elders in the village as concrete actions of filial piety.
Qiu Shilan who is 86 years old this year is the widow of Guan Yanzhu, one of the leading figures of the household contract responsibility system. She said, “My walking stick is a gift from Shen Hao. Once when he noticed my walking stick broke, he told me not to use it in case that I fell down andpromised me a new one. I did not take it seriously. But eventually he bought me a new stick when he was on a business tour.” At hearing that Shen Hao suddenly died, the old woman pounded the ground with her stick, “What a kind man he was! I would die for him if he could return to life.”
As soon as Shen Hao began his term, he went to all the families of the village. He talked with each of the villagers, old and young, male an female. He knew their wishes, and knew what they wanted. In the villagers’ eyes, Shen Hao was different from other Party chiefs.
Many villagers say if Shen Hao was mixed up with the local people, no one would recognize him as a cadre from the provincial capital. He wore a pair of shoes which he bought from the farmers market at the price of five yuan.
Xiaogang Village Mourns for Its Loss
He was fully committed to supporting the masses and working for them, and at the same time, he also won the people’s love. In 2007, Shen Hao was earnestly asked by the more-than-80-year-old Qiu Shilan to have the Chinese New Year’s dinner. He wanted to hurry home for the annual family reunion, but he had to live up to the intention of the elderly. So he had the annual dinner with her on the Spring Festival Eve.
There had not been any concrete roads in Xiaogang village, only unpaved rural paths. When he knew what people needed, he would work out an idea to realize it. Shen Hao made it a priority on his agenda. He invited technicians and hired machinery. To save money, he called on the villagersto renovate the road themselves. Within two months, the first concrete road in Xiaogang village was opened to traffic.
After the construction of the roads, Shen Hao began to improve people’s housing conditions in Xiaogang. They didn’t have money to renovate their homes. Therefore, Shen Hao worked hard to collect a housing fund for the village and planned a residential area along the new road. In his first three year term, Shen Hao helped the villagers move into new houses, built new roads and constructed a memorial hall for the rural reform. Therefore, they did exactly what they had done twenty years before, and signed their fingerprints to ask Shen Hao to stay.
When he had just come to the village the per capita income of the villagers was only 2,000 yuan, lower than the county’s average, the village collective debt was 30,000 yuan. But now, the villagers’ average net income reaches 6600 yuan.
“The recognition of the masses in the village is the biggest compliment for you!” Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, shook his hand and said so during his visit to Xiaogang village on September 30,2008.
In his heart, Shen Hao felt some pressure not only from his daily administrative work but also from his sense of family responsibility. He felt guilty about not having taken good care of his mother, wife and daughter. Since 1996, his aging mother has lived with his family all the time. Ever since he resumed his assignment in Xiaogang village, he resigned his mother to the care of his elder brother in Xiaoxian county. He knelt down and kowtowed to his mother, saying, “As soon as I finish my assignment in Fengyang county, I would come to fetch you to Hefei.” Shen Hao chose to serve the people at the expense of his family. During his two terms, Shen only returned home for the Lunar New Year’s Eve, one day in each year. He put all his effort and heart into the upkeep of Xiaogang village.
Shen Hao passed way. On November7, all the villagers signed an entreaty with their thumbprints requesting to keep Shen’s ashes in the village.