Lawyer turns to cleaning the streets

By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-04 07:16

A retired American lawyer in Central China's Hubei Province has devoted himself to the cause of environmental protection by collecting rubbish in the streets.

K. L. Rothey, 67, has given himself a Chinese name "Luqi," which means "roadside beggar".

"Some people may look down upon beggars collecting rubbish," the People's Daily quoted Rothey as saying. "But in my eyes they are doing honorable environmentally friendly work."

In 2004, Rothey married a Chinese calligrapher, Meng Shunbo, in Huangshi City in Hubei Province and settled down there.

He has now become a "star" in the city because he often shows up in the streets collecting rubbish.

"Huangshi is my home so I hope it becomes cleaner and more beautiful," Rothey said.

His community work has touched and encouraged many local people. In Huangshi, hundreds of volunteers now work alongside him collecting rubbish and promoting environment awareness.

He has also organized volunteers, many of whom are university students, to collect rubbish in many cities, including the provincial capital Wuhan.

Discarded cigarette butts, waste plastic bags and paper are put into dustbins, turning dirty streets into clean and tidy ones.

Guo Jie, a resident of Wuhan, joined one clean-up operation.

"I regret not taking my daughter. She could have received a valuable lesson in protecting the environment," she said.

Rothey's wife, who was initially puzzled by her husband's behaviour, is now a strong supporter.

"At first I could not understand him and felt collecting rubbish is dirty," Meng said in an interview with the Tianjin People's Radio.

"However, Rothey told me collecting rubbish is not dirty; littering the streets is dirty."

Rothey's motto is: "Duty, Will, Spirit and Patience".

He believes the government can play a bigger role in raising people's environmental awareness.

"The government can first provide more rubbish bins and build more rubbish treatment centers," Rothey was quoted by the Changjiang Times, a local newspaper in Wuhan, as saying.

He said China's economy has been developing very rapidly and environmental protection should never fall behind.

For Rothey, collecting rubbish is not the simple answer unless it is coupled with the promotion of environmental awareness.

"Too many people feel environmental protection is none of their business," he said.

"Some Chinese houses are very clean, but it could be very dirty a few steps away," he said.

Rothey, who grew up on a farm in the United States, now speaks fluent Mandarin.

He first visited China in 1984 and developed a strong interest in Chinese culture.

Rothey said that he would continue his rubbish collection rounds as long he is able to.

"What I collect is not rubbish in the streets; it is the rubbish in people's minds," Rothey told the People's Daily.

(China Daily 01/04/2007 page5)

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