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Mounted police tame wild grasslands in Gansu

China Daily | Updated: 2021-09-23 11:00
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LANZHOU-As the sun rises, a sea of pink clouds floats above the green grasslands, and the outlines of a row of mounted police appear from time to time on the golden horizon.

Tse-nga and a dozen of his colleagues train daily on horseback to sharpen their chasing, shooting and bayoneting skills. The two-hour sessions have been Tse-nga's morning routine for 18 years as he works to protect the 40,000-odd herdsmen of Maqu county, Gansu province, near the Yellow River.

Located on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with an average elevation of about 3,500 meters, it was once very difficult to enforce public security in Maqu because residents live in scattered locations.

About 20 years ago, livestock thefts occurred frequently, both locally and across provincial borders, causing huge economic losses to herders.

In November 2003, the public security bureau's grassland mounted police force was established in a bid to carry out patrols and oversight in the vast grassland and interprovincial border areas.

Tse-nga, who used to be a soldier, was among the first to join the force.

"Carrying tents and climbing mountains, we migrated with the herders all year at first," he said.

"As thieves were afraid to take the main roads, we had to patrol the rugged and swampy mountain roads, making horses, which are the most primitive means of transportation, the safest 'cars' on the grassland."

They would scoop water from the Yellow River and mix it with zanba, a Tibetan staple food made of highland barley flour, when they were hungry. "When we were sleepy, our saddles would be our pillows and our coats our quilts," Tse-nga said.

Even after 17 years, he can still remember the first case he dealt with.

"One night in 2004, a herder came to the tent where we were stationed and reported that more than 50 of his yaks had been stolen. We chased the suspects to the provincial border overnight and seized them as they hid in the grass, retrieving the yaks, which were worth 250,000 yuan ($38,675)."

Song Wei, a senior official with the public security bureau in Maqu, said: "The role of the grassland mounted police is clear and long-lasting. Three months after the establishment of the force, the local livestock theft rate decreased by 70 percent. As the police are deeply trusted by the residents and have been eating and living with herders for many years, legal awareness has been greatly improved."

In recent years, living conditions in China's pastoral areas have undergone tremendous changes, with herders moving into brick houses during the winter and the mounted police force having a fixed station.

"The number of public security incidents in Maqu has been greatly reduced, and the grassland police have ushered in a new phase of anti-telecom fraud," Song said.

One afternoon in early August, Tse-nga and his colleague visited herdsman Dukar's home to update his family's information and his understanding of telecom fraud. Last year, the grassland police helped the 41-year-old Tibetan herder find more than 20 lost yaks.

"The mounted police are a symbol of safety on the grassland," said Tsering Lhamo, Dukar's daughter.


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