The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Updated: 2016-01-05 07:58

(China Daily)

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China Daily reporters look back at their personal high points from last year's coverage

Su Zhou: Better protection for children and wildlife

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: The adoption of abducted children has long been an issue, especially for children who were taken at a young age and moved thousands of kilometers from their homes. Until a change in the law in September, abducted children had to be sent to welfare institutions if their legal guardians could not be located. At the same time, there are many families who long to have children. The September amendment means children can be adopted, rather than placed in care, if a 12-month search fails to locate their parents or other guardians.

Most interesting person: I visited Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang province, to conduct interviews about protecting Amur tigers. I spoke with a group of forest rangers, one of whom was a former hunter who once killed a bear with his own hands. "After killing her, I saw many frightened cubs hiding behind the dead body. Then I realized that animals are just like us. The mothers protect their kids," he said. The realization prompted him to move from killing animals to protecting them.

Best interview: During the two sessions - the meetings of China's top legislative bodies in March, I conducted an exclusive interview with Zhang Jianguo, head of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. Zhang took me through the country's plans to recruit foreign talent, and broke the news that China will scrap many of the barriers that prevent foreigners from applying for a Chinese "green card".

Most unforgettable reporting experience: I worked with local reporters to cover the story of the Eastern Star, a cruise liner that had capsized on the Yangtze River, killing 442. We followed the updates as rescue workers tried to right the ship-it was a long night.

Best quotes: "When I came here over 40 years ago, we were dealing with common dangers. Now we are dealing with common opportunities.

"The main challenge we face is to recognize the importance of cooperation to deal with day-to-day problems co-efficiently and with very long-range objectives."

Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state

Zhang Yi: Millions lifted out of poverty across China

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: The story of Sonam Dundron, a farmer in Shannan prefecture in the Tibet autonomous region and a former slave under the serfdom system in place in the 1950s, is the most touching one I wrote last year. Before I heard his story about being forced into slavery when he was a child, I did not fully comprehend how democratic reforms transformed the lives of the masses in Tibet. Dundron's memory of his last day as a slave and his new expectations for a more promising future gave readers a vivid picture of the changes in the past half-century in Tibet.

Best interview: For me, it was the interview with Sonam Dundron at the village's community center in October. I visited the village from Lhasa, the capital of the autonomous region, after a five-hour car ride. The last part of the trip was quite exhausting because the roads were bumpy. Before the interview, I was given a tour of Dundron's house. Its beautiful Tibetan traditional decoration and modern home appliances were quite impressive. I needed a translator to talk with Dundron. I could feel his enthusiasm. Every question got a positive answer. He was happy to share his satisfaction about his current life.

Most unforgettable reporting experience:

Before talking to dozens of farmers in poverty-stricken areas in Jiangxi province, as well as in places unfit for human habilitation in Guizhou province, I hadn't really understood the extent to which the government at all levels had helped people out poverty and led them to a better life. More than 600 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty in the past three decades. As the largest contributor to global poverty reduction, China has set an example for the world with its achievements.

Best quote in my stories: "Villagers could barely read or write at that time. A bowl was put behind every candidate, and each villager was given a pea. Villagers put the pea into the bowl for the candidate they supported."

Nyima Tsering - a farmer in Kesong village, Shannan prefecture, Tibet, who was a slave in the 1950s - talking about how villagers elected the head of the farmers' association in 1959.He got about 390 peas and was elected the association's head.

Xu Wei: Diverse forms of devotion

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: The growing appeal of Buddhism among the middle classes and urban elites as a result of the use of new media to disseminate information among city dwellers.

Most interesting person: I met several very devout students at the National Seminary of the Catholic Church in China. One of them, Meng Dongdong, told me how he had undergone many heartbreaking discussions with his family before his parents finally agreed to him entering the seminary. In a country where parents generally have high expectations of their children caring for them in old age, every one of the young men who entered the seminary had made an extraordinary choice.

Best interview: I spoke with a villager who lives close to a minefield along the Sino-Vietnamese border in Yunnan province. He told me how he and other residents risked their lives deactivating mines and turning minefields, some of them as big as 15 hectares, into farmland. I was deeply interested in the deadly legacy of war, and how it affects people's lives in the long term, and it was fascinating to listen to his personal story, and discuss the mental anguish he and his family were subjected to over the years.

Most memorable reporting experience: It was my most dangerous experience as a reporter. I was on a boat with several other reporters, traveling to a small island in the South China Sea when we found ourselves in very heavy waters. The boat rode waves as high as 3 or 4 meters, and rose several meters into the air before thudding back into the surface of the ocean. All we could do was hold tightly to the handrails on the boat. Everyone offered up prayers, but we were too tired and frightened to even yell in fear. We all survived, but one of the reporters sustained a fractured spine.

Best quotes: "As people become more wealthy, quality of life is not determined by your position or how much money you make, but by your inner strength.

"The experience of religion is a source of inner power to many people."

Yu Yueming, a lay Buddhist at the Longquan Temple in Beijing

Zheng Jinran: Sewers, smells and safety programs

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: An investigation into the disposal of sewage sludge that revealed many problems, including large quantities of illegally dumped untreated sewage sludge that can contaminate soil and underground water sources.

Most interesting person: Wang Wenxing, an 88-year-old academician, who led China's earliest teams of air-pollution researchers, and has worked and taught at universities to nurture more talent in the field of environment protection.

Most memorable reporting experience: In September, our team conducted interviews at sewage plants in several cities in Shaanxi and Jiangsu provinces. The stench in the sewage plants was stomach-churning, but it was worth enduring to learn about the problems involved in dealing with sewage sludge.

Best quote: "I can still recall the fieldwork undertaken at that time (1982) when we spent months in the wild. It was tiring but worth it."

Wang Wenxing, an academician, who headed the field research in a three-year project to study sulfur dioxide and analyze particle matter, one of the earliest, and at the time largest, air-pollution projects in China

Sun Xiaochen: A historic year for Chinese sports

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: I wrote the front page story on Aug 1, after Beijing was awarded the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. It was a historic moment because Beijing became the only city to host both the Summer and Winter Games, so I related the scenes of celebration at the IOC session where the decision was made. It brought back fond memories of the Chinese capital winning the race to host the 2008 Summer Games.

Most interesting person: Wang Yin, a former financial worker who quit a well-paid job in banking to start an online-to-offline fitness business. Inspired by the popularity of workout tips shared online, Wang built a team of professional trainers and nutritionists to offer tailor-made workouts and dietary plans for clients.

Best interview: In March, during the annual session of China's top political advisory body - the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - I conducted a video interview with retired basketball star and CPPCC member Yao Ming. The tallest, and probably highest-profile, political advisor in the world complained about the excessive focus on his celebrity status rather than his political proposals.

Most unforgettable reporting experience: Covering Beijing's joint bid with Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games was the high point of my year. From visiting ski resorts around Beijing to covering the International Olympic Committee's 128th Session in Malaysia, where Beijing won the hosting rights, I was deeply involved in the entire journey.

Best quotes: "Although we are nowhere near the world's best right now, hopefully we can qualify for the World Cup and reach the last 16, while improving the national team's world ranking and getting into the top 30 in about 20 years."

Cai Zhenhua, president of the Chinese Football Association

Luo Wangshu: Dark days and traditional dances

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: The family of Nie Shubin has been fighting for 20 years to clear his name and have his conviction overturned. Nie was executed in 1995 at age 20 after being convicted of murder, but another man confessed to the crime 10 years later. A case review, originally scheduled for December, has been postponed for three months.

Best interview: My interviews with Nie's mother and lawyer.

Most interesting person: Drolkar, the only inheritor of an ancient Tibetan dance called xuan. Although communication was limited by the language barrier, the 84-year-old's sincerity, sign language, facial expressions and gestures made her the most interesting person I met last year. When the grandmother danced in an attempt to explain xuan to me, she seemed transformed from an elderly, wrinkled lady into a beauty from mysterious, ancient Tibet.

Most memorable reporting experience: A trip to Ngari Prefecture, the Tibet autonomous region. We traveled on bumpy roads for up to 14 hours a day. Although I was carsick, the beauty of the natural scenery took my breath away. Among the people I met was a bald, unassuming, middle-aged man who I assumed to be a local farmer. However, I later discovered that he was the Party chief of the county. Other people I met there, such as a former slave and some monks, were also fascinating.

Zheng Yangpeng: New energy and commitment

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: In late July, I reported on a little known company, Lianjia Licai, a peer-to-peer lending platform backed by the Homelink Real Estate Agency. Just six months after its launch, Lianjia Licai has made impressive headway, becoming the country's fourth-largest P2P platform in terms of turnover. Its ascendancy in the fiercely competitive sector was down to one crucial reason: Its parent company is China's largest pre-owned home broker, and the new company was able to cash in on its parent's gigantic off-line customer base. It was an "aha" moment for me, because beyond all the hype of "Internet-plus" or "online finance", the key is really not about the "Internet", but the "plus", or the company's offline resources. The Internet is just part of the infrastructure, like electricity in the 19th century. The key is how you transform existing businesses with the Web and align online and offline components. Those who own off-line resources ultimately gain the upper hand.

Most unforgettable reporting experience: In November, I visited Datang Telecom Technology & Industry Group, an old-style, State-owned enterprise that's attempting to transform itself into an incubator for mobile-age startups. It has built a technology platform that enables startup teams - both from inside and outside the group to develop apps quickly, and most important, free of charge. What impressed me most was witnessing how entrepreneurial zeal was spurred by a new management structure. Former managers, now in start-up teams, booked economy seats for non-rush-hour flights to save money, and tirelessly approached us (journalists), to ask us to download apps they had developed-unimaginable behavior if the businesses had not been theirs, but the company's instead. Think of the exuberance that could unleashed if SOEs really underwent a complete overhaul.

Hu Yongqi: My first trip to the 'wild west' of China

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: In July, I wrote about Ramadan, the month of fasting in the Islamic calendar, in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Xinjiang's 12 million Muslims observe the month with visits to the 24,000 mosques in the region. The report concentrated on how Muslims follow the rules laid down in the Quran. Although reports in the Western media spoke about how Xinjiang's Muslims were contained by rituals and prayers, my trip to Urumqi, the regional capital, and Kashgar, a major city in the south of the region, showed nothing of the sort. Local officials provided funds to repair mosques and enlarge facilities. Security was tight to prevent any potential attacks, but everything else ran smoothly. At night, people walked along the streets and there were no signs of trouble.

Best quote: "At other times of the year, all the workers go back to work after lunch. Ramadan means they don't eat during daytime. They take a rest for two or three hours in the afternoon, longer than usual, and then return to making hats."

Huseyin Sidik, the owner of a milliners in downtown Kashgar

Chen Jia: A roller-coaster ride on the country's financial markets

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: An interview with a high-ranking official who hinted that China might cut the annual GDP growth target this year. To follow the tip, I interviewed several economists and they explained the possibility of slower growth. My story, "Economists favor reducing GDP target to 6.5%", was published two weeks before President Xi Jinping made the official announcement after a top level meeting.

Best interview: In September, I interviewed Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg LP. Wemet just a few weeks after huge turmoil in China's stock and currency markets, but Bloomberg told me he was fully confident that the Chinese economy still "has enormous potential". He recalled his experiences as mayor, spoke about the crisis on Wall Street, and how "hard work" is his philosophy when faced with difficulties.

Most memorable reporting experience: On Nov 30, a group of journalists who cover China's central bank, including myself, waited for the final announcement from Christine Lagarde, director of the International Monetary Fund, about the yuan being included in the Special Drawing Rights basket of reserve currencies. The news didn't arrive until about 1 am Beijing time, when we reported on the historic moment. We got very little sleep that night.

Yang Wanli: A year of tough assignments and great experiences

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Best story: A story about male circumcision was one of my most interesting assignments last year. In June, the Shang Ring - a bloodless circumcision procedure developed in China-was admitted to the World Health Organization's prequalification program, which makes new techniques and medicine available to those in need. The ring is at the frontiers of medical science, and is a great reflection of the differences in reproductive culture between East and West. The topic was of interest to both Chinese and foreign readers, and China Daily was one of the first media organizations to cover the introduction of the Shang Ring. Also, in September, I reported on a new strain of HIV/AIDS virus in the border region between China and Myanmar. It was hard to describe a complicated scientific story in simple terms, but I learned a lot.

Most interesting person: Liu Defeng, a physician at Peking University Third Hospital, who called for greater awareness of erectile dysfunction among Chinese men, and for more doctors and treatment for the affliction.

Most unforgettable reporting experience: In December, I visited an eco-friendly toilet project in a village in Jiangsu province. It made me realize how urgently rural China needs a sanitation revolution. During the trip, I stepped onto a boat that has for decades carried human waste to the fields where it is used as fertilizer. The story was a real eye-opener and a great experience.

Best quote: "People may be surprised to learn that such an innovative idea was nurtured in China, where the circumcision rate is extremely low. My reply is this: No matter how many circumcisions have been done in a country, each one is extremely important to the man concerned, to his health and self-confidence."

Shang Jianzhong, the inventor of the Shang Ring

Shan Juan: Renewed passion

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Most memorable stories: Those related to China's family planning policy. It's been seven years since I first wrote about China's 40-year-old birth policy. At the end of last year, the government decided to abandon the old policy and announce a "universal two-child policy".

The change, based on common sense reality, renewed my passion for journalism, which I believe can help to shape a nation and people.

There's a great feeling of power when you strive for something you believe in, and then see it come true. Of course, there are still other issues to address and rights to be met, and for common sense to prevail again. That feeling will inform my work this year.

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Members of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games bid delegation celebrate after Beijing won the bid in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 31. Lyu Xiaowei / Xinhua

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Yang Wanli talks with an interviewee. Zhang Zhen / for China Daily

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Sun Xiaochen (right) interviews former NBA star Patrick Ewing in Beijing.

The stories that provided the highlights of 2015

Su Zhou with Joan Clos, executive director of the UN Human Settlement Programme who visited Beijing in late October after an interview. Zhu Xingxin and Geng Feifei / China Daily

(China Daily 01/05/2016 page6)