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Police couple guard border at unique base

Updated: Mar 5, 2024 By YUAN HUI in Hohhot and ZHOU HUIYING China Daily Print
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Married police officers Xu Naichao (right) and Li Wenna tend two lambs while visiting a herder's home in Tsagaanzadgai village in Alshaa Left Banner, Inner Mongolia autonomous region. CHINA DAILY

Since the first couple's border police station in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region was established two years ago, Xu Naichao and Li Wenna have been working together in the building in Tsagaanzadgai village.

The village is part of Yingen township in Alshaa Left Banner, capital of Alshaa League.

Xu, 33, a border police officer of the Alshaa Border Management Detachment, and his wife Li, 35, who was an auxiliary police officer at the Alshaa Left Banner Public Security Bureau, are now responsible for managing a 3,145-square-kilometer border area and a 103-km border line, as well as providing security and voluntary services to the local residents.

Tsagaanzadgai, a small, remote village 300 km from downtown Alshaa Left Banner, has about 180 residents.

Due to the harsh natural environment in the area, many young people have left it to seek a better life. Most of those who remain are the older generation of farmers and herdsmen, guarding their own pastures and making their living mainly by raising camels and growing traditional Chinese medicinal herbs.

"The herdsmen are very scattered," said Erentai, head of the Yingen police station. "The distance between each family is at least 20 km, and some are more than 100 km apart."

In early 2022, the detachment decided to establish a police station in the border area, and Xu was the first to sign up.

When Li got the news, she decided to support her husband's pursuit of career advancement, but also worried that this would further reduce the time they could spend together.

She then considered whether she should apply to work with a traffic police team closer to the police station.

"When we learned about the young couple's situation, we had the idea of creating a couple's police station," said Chen Xiaorui, director of the detachment. "Through coordination with the local political and legal committee, Xu and Li were jointly assigned to the station."

The station opened on Feb 27, 2022. It is a brick-and-tile house with five rooms that was once a rest station for herders and passing truck drivers.

Though a native of rugged Alshaa, Li said the living conditions at the station were harsher than she expected.

"There is no constant supply of water and electricity," she said. "We have to get water from a well 15 kilometers away, and there are no plumbing facilities for a laundry or restroom. Electricity is generated through solar panels."

Strong perennial winds have also troubled the couple. Over the past two years, their dedication to their work and their willingness to endure the harsh environment have won them praise from residents.

Upon their arrival, Xu and Li spent lots of time visiting the residents and getting to know their situations.

When they learned some seniors had underlying diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, the couple coordinated with the Alshaa Red Cross to establish an emergency medical aid room at the police station. The room is stocked with medical equipment and common medicines, allowing local farmers and herders to seek convenient treatments for minor illnesses.

They also set up a convenience store at the police station where residents can buy daily necessities.

In their spare time, Xu and Li help the residents with their work, including shearing camels, digging for medicinal herbs in summer, looking for lost camels while braving strong winds and sand and finding markets to sell the animals.

The couple have also spent time teaching older residents how to use smartphones and giving them equipment to boost their phone signals to help them better communicate with the outside world.

And as police officers, they are of course responsible for handling incidents involving crime and safety.

Some truck drivers and tourists passing through the area may get lost or run out of fuel, prompting them to seek help from the police.

"In January last year, a truck driver ran out of fuel on the road where there was no mobile phone signal or network," Xu said.

"After walking for a long time, the driver was able to get a signal on top of a small hill and called the police for help."

Xu drove more than 60 km before finding the stranded truck driver in the wilderness.

"The temperature had dropped to -20 C at night, and the truck couldn't start due to a lack of fuel when we found him," he said. "We brought him a bucket of diesel, a bowl of instant noodles and some hot water."

Xu told the driver how to reach the nearest town, where he could find a petrol station.

The police couple have a daughter who was born in June. They named her Momo, inspired by shamo, the Chinese word for desert.

Li's parents are taking care of her in Alshaa Left Banner.

Last May, the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League and the All-China Youth Federation awarded Xu a China Youth May Fourth Medal for his outstanding performance.

"It was an honor shared with my wife, who has given me great support," he said.

Li said she is very proud of her husband, and their service has also benefited her.

"Working at the border police station has not only helped me understand my husband's persistence, but I also feel that my own value has been further realized," Li said.

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