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A good village leader in Tibet

China Daily, January 6, 2014 Adjust font size:

A good village leader moves from the outside in

Zhang Xiaobo (left) teaches tomato-planting skills to a villager. Daqiong / China Daily

Villagers in a remote settlement in the Tibet autonomous region have come to rely on one man - Zhang Xiaobo.

Zhang is an outsider who has become central to the community. Still, the ethnic Han from Gansu province was recently re-elected as Party chief of the ethnically and culturally Tibetan Khesum village in the farflung Yarlung valley, where he has led local affairs since 2008.

Tears fall down Tsering Drolma's face as she says: "Zhang is my only crutch. He gave me the confidence and power to face despair and illness during my darkest days."

The mother of a 5-year-old daughter recalls he helped the family when she was seriously sick.

He worked with the village committee to apply for advances totaling 50,000 yuan ($8,176) for Tsering Drolma's medical costs and took her to the hospital in Lhasa for treatment. She eventually recovered.

Zhang also helped her family get rice, flour, quilts and new clothes.

The village chief was offered a promotion as a town-level official after his three-year village chief tenure ended in 2011. But he turned down the opportunity and works part-time at both levels.

Zhang stumbled into the job through a national program in which university graduates work as the heads of impoverished villages for a time.

But Zhang recalls encountering initial difficulties communicating with locals due to linguistic differences. But speaking with them is now the foundation of his life and work.

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