From the streets to the Great Hall of the People

Updated: 2012-12-20 09:02

By Tang Yue (China Daily)

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A number of migrant workers have become political figures after being elected as delegates at high-level political meetings. Tang Yue reports from Shanghai and Beijing.

Like most of China's migrant workers, Ren Xiaoyun usually only travels back to his hometown once a year, during Spring Festival. It's been that way since he arrived in Beijing in 1996.

However, this year has been different. Ren has returned to Pingquan county in Hebei province three times since August. Each time, his arrival has created a stir at his home at Laowopu village, roughly 300 kilometers northeast of Beijing.

From the streets to the Great Hall of the People

Ren Xiaoyun, a 39-year-old garbage truck driver, was one of a record 26 migrant worker delegates among the 2,270 at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Cui Meng / China Daily

Ren's latest visit was on Nov 17, when the county government sent a car to pick him up in Beijing. Ceremonial gongs, drums and firecrackers were prepared at his home and more than 300 people, some from the neighboring village, gathered and waited to see him.

The fuss is a result of Ren's new identity - the 39-year-old became one of a record 26 migrant workers among the 2,270 delegates at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, held in Beijing from Nov 8 to 14.

To better prepare for the congress, which meets once every five years, Ren went home twice before the event and was invited to deliver speeches to local officials and villagers just three days after the congress ended.

Pingquan has a population of about 500,000. Ren was the county's first delegate to the most important event in the Chinese political calendar, so it was little surprise that he made headlines in the local newspapers and was treated like a superstar whenever he returned.

Everyone tried to shake his hand and say something, anything, to him. People asked all sorts of questions, from "How does it feel to sit in the Great Hall of the People?" to "Does the Party chief look different in real life than on TV?"

"I saw a lot of people I hadn't met for 20 years. They came from everywhere to see me," he recalled.

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