Pat on the back

By Liu Zhihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-09-28 09:43
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Twelve foreigners who have made China their home win recognition for their exceptional contributions. Liu Zhihua reports

Expatriates have long been a dynamic force in Chinese society. Many have helped improve Chinese lives with their contributions in business, education, medical care, conservation, and disaster relief. Tianjin TV's bilingual documentary program, China Right There, highlights the lives of foreigners who have been living here since the founding of New China in 1949.

Now, 12 of those who call China their home have won the You Bring Charm to China award, for their exceptional efforts to advance the nation's development.

The awards were given on Sept 20 at 21st Century Theater, hosted by Tianjin Television and Phoenix Television, and co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Program and several prominent Chinese media groups.

We profile the winners here.

Jill Robinson, 50, from Britain, founder and CEO of Animals Asia Foundation

Robinson has been working for nearly 20 years to stop the extraction of bile from moon bears for use in traditional medicine.

She began working for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Hong Kong in the mid-1980s. A business trip to a bear farm in the mainland in 1993 changed her life.

The sight of living, breathing bears imprisoned in rows of tiny wire cages, and tortured by wounds and infections made her cry, and she vowed that one day she would be back to set them free.

Robinson researched the way the bile was used and found that bear bile could easily be replaced by herbs or synthetic alternatives, considered just as effective by eminent traditional medical practitioners.

In 1998, she set up the Asia Animals Foundation. In July 2000, the foundation signed an agreement to free 500 farmed moon bears with the relevant authorities in Beijing and Sichuan. In 2002, the Moon Bear Rescue Center was established in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, giving the bears everything they were denied on the farms: health, freedom and happiness.

Now, in terms of area, bear farms have been phased out of two-thirds of China. "As much as we rescue them, they rescue us. These bears rescue us every single day and they teach us to be better people," Robinson says.

George Beals Schaller, 73, from the United States, a naturalist, conservationist and author

Schaller has studied wildlife in Asia, Africa and South America for more than 50 years, and has helped save some of the most famous creatures on the planet, including the giant panda and the rare Tibetan antelope, or chiru.

Schaller began his study of the giant panda in Wolong, Sichuan, in 1980 and became one of the first Westerners permitted into China for research. Together with his Chinese colleagues, he zeroed in on the main threats to the survival of giant pandas and other wildlife - poaching, poor forestry management and destruction of habitat.

Thanks to his research efforts, the panda population in the wild has increased by 45 percent.

In 1984, Schaller went to Chang Tang in the Tibet autonomous region, and worked on researching the chiru, whose population was declining rapidly owing to hunting for their exotic wool.

On his advice, the Chang Tang Nature Reserve was established. Better enforcement of conservation measures combined with a growing wildlife protection ethic in local communities has led to an increase in the numbers of the chiru.

Over the past 30 years, Schaller has also brought the ecological systems of the remote northern and western areas of China, to the attention of the world through his books and articles.

Professor Lu Zhi of Peking University received the award on behalf of Dr Schaller, who was in the wild conducting his research.

K.L. Rothey, 71, from the United States, a retired lawyer, a local school teacher and self-appointed rubbish collector

Rothey has given himself the Chinese name of Luqi, or "roadside beggar".

In his eyes, beggars are doing honorable work collecting rubbish. What they do is not dirty, he says. Littering the street is, he adds.

Rothey first visited China in 1984 and soon became interested in Chinese culture. Married to a Chinese calligrapher, he settled down in Huangshi, Hubei province.

A well-recognized face, he often shows up in the streets collecting rubbish.

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

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

He has also organized volunteers to collect rubbish in other cities, including the provincial capital Wuhan.

"Too many people feel environmental protection is none of their business," he says, "Some Chinese houses are very clean, but it could be very dirty a few steps away."

Rothey says he will continue collecting rubbish, as long as he is able to.

"What I collect is not rubbish in the streets; it is the rubbish in people's minds."

Khalid Malik, former United Nations (UN) resident coordinator and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) resident representative in China, and his family: wife Carter Malik, and daughters Sahra and Alia

Born in Pakistan and educated as an economist at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Essex and Punjab, Malik has held a variety of key managerial, technical and policy positions in UN/UNDP both in the field and at headquarters.

During his time in China, he has been to nearly all of the provinces, and made a significant contribution to the nation's sustainable development.

In 2009, Malik was a winner - the only foreign one - of the Awards for 10 Green People of China at the Second China International Forum on Green Development.

Although he is no longer in China, his family has set up home in Shangri-La, Yunnan province, to help local people.

Carter Malik has founded a non-profit, community based organization, the Yunnan Mountain Handicraft Center, to promote projects that support the cultural heritage, handicrafts and eco-tourism of Diqing Tibet autonomous prefecture, Yunnan.

Their daughters Sahra and Alia have established what are known as Shangri-La Farms, a model of socially responsible business, selling honey and coffee.

"Every little thing (action) makes a difference," Khalid Malik says.

Bill Porter, 67, from the United States, a Sinologist, writer and translator

Porter's life has revolved around centers of Buddhist teaching and practice since the early 1970s. He has authored books and articles that give readers in the West as well as in the East, insights into Chinese culture, especially Zen, a special sect of Buddhism that emerged in China in the 7th century, and is based on the ideas of experiential wisdom and meditation.

His China story began in 1972 when he was a graduate student of anthropology at Columbia University. Following a meditation session with a Chinese Buddhist monk he quit school, and was inducted into the Fo Guang Shan monastery in Taipei.

Since then, he has lived with Zen monks and studied their practices.

As he pored over the works of 14th-century hermit poet Ch'ing-hung (Stonehouse), Porter realized he had found his feet as a translator.

He then translated what is probably the largest collection of ancient Chinese and Sanskrit texts on Buddhism into English.

He has also translated and edited highly obscure ancient texts, such as the teachings of Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism in the 6th century BC, and the Diamond Sutra, the oldest known printed book in the world, based on the Mahayana school of Buddhist teaching.

Hua Xinmin, 56, from France, a protector of ancient hutong and siheyuan

Hua Xinmin, a "blue-eyed Beijinger" as she calls herself, is trying hard to protect historical neighborhoods in Beijing - known as hutong (traditional alleys) and siheyuan (courtyard houses) - from being turned into rubble in city-wide demolition projects.

Her grandfather, Hua Nangui, was a famous architect and one of the first-generation Chinese students to study in France.

Her father, who also studied architecture in France, married a French woman. On his return, he became one of the chief architects of Beijing's urban planning after 1949.

Hua was born in Hongxing hutong in Dongcheng district in 1954 and grew up there before her family moved to France in the 1970s. She says the hutong is the only place she has felt comfortable in and cherishes all the memories associated with it.

She is passionate about protecting hutong, once famously standing in front of bulldozers to block their way. Hua rides her bicycle and knocks on the doors of hutong residents to collect their stories and document a disappearing way of life.

Despite losing her own hutong home in 2005, she has not given up.

Luigi Colani, 72, from Germany, industrial designer

Colani has received many awards since he embarked on a career in designing in Paris in the early 1950s.

He came to China in the 1990s to teach at Shanghai's Tongji University.

In 2008, Colani designed the unique fan cabin of the first 2.5-megawatt wind turbine in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. These turbines provide abundant clean energy to Beihai, making a significant contribution to the protection of the region's fragile ecology.

"This wonderful country is one of the oldest cultures we have, and even as a child, I was very much in love with Chinese art," Colani says.

Josef Margraf, biologist from Germany, and Minguo Li-Margraf

Margraf came to China to research an endangered variety of orchids and help with biodiversity conservation in western China.

Margraf met and married Li Minguo in Xishuangbanna while in charge of a Sino-German project on rainforest protection.

The couple founded the Tian Zi Biodiversity Research and Development Center.

Margraf died on Jan 26, 2010.

"The planet's biodiversity remains precarious I hope everyone here will do what we can, no matter how small, to protect our living space," Minguo Li-Margraf said, while accepting the award.

Laurence J. Brahm, 49, from the United States, a global activist, international mediator, political economist and author

Brahm is a Beijing-based political economist and lawyer who has spent his entire career involved with China. Advice provided by him was regularly sought by State-owned and multinational enterprises in China.

He has also written some 20 books, interpreting China to the world.

An attack of femoral head necrosis led him to a spiritual world in the Tibet autonomous region and Yunnan. He has been calling for priority to environmental protection, ethnic diversity, and cultural sustainability in economic development.

"Through business, we make money, and can give our children a lot of money to spend, but what is the point (of that) if we cannot provide them water to drink? And that is the problem we will face in the future," he says.

Josef Eugster, 70, from Switzerland, a priest and expert in foot massage

Father Josef has been living in Taiwan for the past 30 years. Besides performing his duties as a priest he also helps people tortured by disease, through foot massage.

After successfully healing himself through foot massage, he could not but help explore the secrets of this method. Combining traditional Chinese medical theory and Western reflexology, he has developed his own method of foot massage.

"God has put a doctor in our feet; making friends with him will keep us healthy. I hope everyone can benefit from foot massage," he says.

Aoki Yoko, 49, from Japan, founder of the first Japanese-language training school for the visually impaired

A disease at 6 condemned Yoko to a life of darkness, but she lives with sunshine in her heart by helping others.

In 1994, Yoko, then 33, established the Tianjin Japanese-language training school for the visually impaired, the first of its kind in China. Since then, she has helped 401 students, some of whom have traveled to Japan with her.

"I will keep on helping those who cannot see to realize their dreams, and lead them into a bright world," she says.

Guillaume and Delphine Gauvain, from France, founders of the Jici Home for visually impaired orphans

Mr and Mrs Gauvain used to head a project to help juvenile offenders and drug addicts in the United States.

In November 2002, they decided to focus on helping a vulnerable group - visually impaired orphans - after working in Beijing with organizations for orphans, and realizing the absence of a specialized service for these children.

Jici Home in Langfang, Hebei province, was born in 2003 and has 80 children in seven houses, besides a school for the visually impaired.

"We are honored to receive the award. It's not only for us but also for the hundreds of people backing us. All the nannies and teachers, thank you!," they said while receiving the award.