News / Asia

Village of Rising Chinese Political Star Off Limits to Public

Stephanie Ho

Xi Jinping, the man expected to be China's next top leader, is widely known for coming from a politically privileged family.  But during the Cultural Revolution, he and thousands of other young people were sent to live in and learn in the countryside.  Xi went to Liangjiahe, a small village in Shaanxi province.  While some people are eager to talk about the Xi's time there, the local authorities are not.

Shi Yudong remembers when Xi Jinping came to stay in Liangjiahe village in the late 1960s.

"He had a pragmatic spirit," said Shi.  "He was not the kind of person who only took care of you if you were a close relative or friend.  He would treat you the same regardless of who you were."

Xi was one of hundreds of thousands of young people sent to the countryside during Mao's Cultural Revolution campaign.  He was only 15 years old at the time.

Liangjiahe's Communist party secretary, Shi Chunyang, lets us into his house, but refuses to be interviewed.

Xi returned to visit Liangjiahe once, nearly a decade ago, when he was governor of Fujian province.

Because of the geography, it is common for villagers to make their homes in caves.  We ask the party secretary if he will take us to see one of the cave dwellings where Xi lived for several years.

Shi says he does not have the key.  A few seconds later, he asks us to stop filming him.

The cave house that Xi Jinping called home for nearly half of his roughly seven years in Liangjiahe is behind a locked door.

The next door neighbor, Liang Xinrong, was 10 years old when Xi lived there.

He also refuses to be filmed, but he shows us what was on the other side of his wall - a small-scale methane pit that converts waste into energy that powers his stove.

The pit is recognized as the first of its kind in Shaanxi province.  Liang says the credit goes to Xi.

Villager Shi Yudong says he does not understand why authorities told him he cannot talk to journalists about this hometown hero.

"I feel that because he climbed up the ladder from the countryside, he knows something about corruption, so there is hope he will do something about it," Shi noted.

Our visit to Liangjiahe is cut short.  An official tells us we are not allowed to be there. He tells us we can come back to the village next year, when, he adds, there will be fewer restrictions.

Next year is when Xi is expected to begin his ascent to China's top leadership positions. By that time, officials in Liangjiahe presumably will have completed the authorized version of this chapter of Xi's life story.

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