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Unyielding Spirit: How a Community Leader in Chongqing Battles Cancer and Revitalizes Her Neighborhood

By Dai Yuan|Apr 19,2024

Chongqing - Diagnosed with lung cancer at a crucial time, Xie Lan didn't let her health stop her from revitalizing the Xingjiaqiao Community, a project close to her heart.

Born and raised in Xingjiaqiao, a residential complex in Chongqing that was home to the first 1,422 rural immigrants during the city's rapid urbanization in the early 90s, Xie witnessed the deterioration of her community—leaking pipes, peeling walls, and tangled cables. As secretary of the Xingjiaqiao Community Party Committee since 2013, she dreamt of improving life for her neighbors.

In 2018, the local government introduced a free renovation project, which initially faced strong opposition from residents fearing commercial exploitation. Determined, Xie spent months door-to-door, dispelling rumors and explaining the benefits of the project, and organizing over 70 troubleshooting sessions. Her dedication made her accessible to the community day and night. To demonstrate the project's potential, she transformed a few homes into "model houses."

Her strategy worked, with support skyrocketing from 23 percent to over 90 percent. Even staunch opponents were swayed by the tangible improvements in the model homes.

Xie Lan converses with a resident. (Photo/Feng Lian)

The project's momentum was gaining when Xie received her cancer diagnosis. Prioritizing the community over her health, she postponed her surgery until the first phase of the renovation was underway. After surgery in April 2019, she was back at the site within two weeks, despite complications with her wound, which moved the community to support her recovery with traditional remedies.

Li Guoping, a resident initially against the renovation, was convinced after seeing the improvements in a model flat—repainted walls, waterproofed areas, and updated fixtures. Grateful, she moved into her renovated flat and volunteered to assist Xie, saying, "This is where I want to live for the rest of my life."

To date, the project has rejuvenated 1,355 flats and 231 commercial spaces, with completion expected by this May.

The renovated buildings in Xing Jiaqiao Community. (Photo/Wang Jiaxi)

Xie, who had supported her family from a young age, had worked in various roles before becoming a community leader. Her daughter, Zhu Hanwei, inspired by her mother's resilience and solution-oriented approach, followed in her footsteps as a community worker.

At a community gathering celebrating the new homes, Xie shared her joy, "My dream has come true, and all my efforts have proved worthy. I see this as a new beginning for our community and a better life for our residents."

(The Original author is Guo Shuyu from Liangjiang New Area Media Center)


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