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A family settles into temporary accommodation in Xiahe, Gansu province, after the Oct 28 earthquake. [Photo/Xinhua]

LANZHOU - When a 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Xiahe county in October, Tenmolon, a 50-year-old Tibetan farmer, quickly alerted sleeping villagers.

It was 1:56 am on Oct 28 when the quake hit Drada village in Xiahe, Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Gansu province.

Tenmolon ran to the village"s public broadcasting room and shouted into a microphone in Tibetan, "Earthquake! Earthquake! Get out of your rooms!"

Ten minutes later, the villagers gathered outside the room where Tenmolon, who goes by one name, and a community rescue team checked that all of them were safe.

In recent years, Gannan has been promoting a system of "grid management" at the grassroots level. Under the system, over 10 households make up a team, with a leader in charge of resolving conflicts among villagers, sanitation management and public security issues. Gannan now has 16,942 team leaders like Tenmolon, who serve the locals.

It was only 4 C or 5 C on the night of the earthquake. Fearing aftershocks, the team leaders tried to calm down the villagers and boiled hot water for them, persuading them not to go home until the aftershocks had stopped.

At 4 am, all the villagers returned home, but three team leaders were still busy going from door to door to check for housing damage. After working for 24 hours, Tenmolon finally breathed a sigh of relief. "Once I had made sure that everyone was safe, I was not worried anymore," he said.

The grassroots governance network is expanding to every corner of Gannan, from remote pastures to urban areas.

In downtown Hezuo, team leader Gao Qingping, 52, also spent a sleepless night on Oct 28.

When the earthquake struck, she rushed out of her home and knocked on the doors of all the elderly people who lived alone in her village. She then called the community center and seismographic station to report the damage.

Gao and community center staff were busy until the next evening, checking the situation, maintaining public order and promoting knowledge about responding to earthquakes to the public.

There are 1,986 households in the community where Gao lives, and only two houses were damaged. "Although we were tired, I felt it was worthwhile when I saw the residents were safe and sound," she said.

The earthquake affected thousands of people but there were no casualties. Transportation, communication, and supplies of water, electricity and heating were running normally, with social stability ensured.

In Hezuo, more than 2,000 team leaders helped ensure order after the earthquake, evacuated over 30,000 people, and conducted 4,500 patrols.

Gannan is a sparsely populated prefecture with diverse ethnic groups, and team leaders are selected from those with high standing in their communities.

Liu Min, a researcher with the Gansu Academy of Social Sciences said, "Under this system, conflicts can be effectively resolved and people can have a face-to-face talk with their team leaders."

Since the popularization of the system, the number of disputes in Gannan has fallen for three consecutive years, with 98 percent successfully handled. The number of criminal cases decreased by 6.54 percent year-on-year, with public security cases down 13 percent, according to local statistics.

Villagers are no longer reluctant to speak their minds, and now actively ask their team leaders for help. Tenmolon said the trust between him and villagers had strengthened.

"I used to knock on their doors to talk, but now they are willing to strike up a conversation with me, which gives me a strong sense of achievement and more responsibilities as well," he said.


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