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Masseuse's journey from seamstress to congress member

By ZHANG YI (chinadaily.com.cn)

Updated: 2015-03-04 14:51:35


Masseuse's journey from seamstress to congress member

Liu Li is pictured in this undated photo. [Photo/people.cn]

As with a concert pianist, the most important tools of Liu Li's trade are her hands and fingers, but in her unstinting service to millions of Chinese the tools at play are her heart and mind.

To some, Liu's job as a foot masseuse may seem like a lowly calling, but for her it is one that not only clothes and feeds her, but also keeps her in touch with the ordinary people she represents as a member of the National People's Congress.

The farmer's daughter, 34, hails from Anhui province in East China, and her struggles from an early age to find her way in life make her a particularly apt advocate for the disadvantaged in the congress' annual session now being held in Beijing.

Liu, the eldest of five children, was forced to drop out of primary school when she was 14.

"My dream was to become a teacher but when I left school I had to give up that idea."

Over the years, she has held a number of jobs. Her first was as a seamstress at a clothing factory.

"After doing numerous jobs in several cities, including waitressing, I found myself a useful position as a foot masseuse. I know how difficult it is to find a job when you have nothing more to show than a basic primary school education. I know, too, of how desperately short of knowledge I felt as I looked for a better job."

So in 2000, when she was working as a foot masseuse in Xiamen, Fujian province, she decided to start sponsoring poverty-stricken students, and 10 years later she was nominated as one of the country's top 10 inspirational people.

She has helped more than 100 students over the years with her salary and 53 of them have received regular financial support.

On Dec 20, she established a charity organization in Xiamen. Inspired by her unremitting efforts to help students, more than 500 people from all walks of life have joined the organization over the past two months. More than 300 students are receiving regular financial support from the organization.

Apart from donating money, the members have devoted themselves in their own ways to helping the students by providing schoolbags and teaching resources as well as voluntary work for the organization's administration.

Knowing it is still hard for farmers' families to support their children in education even if they work in factories and enterprises in cities, Liu began to speak for those farmer-turned-laborers who have little knowledge of how to protect their legal rights.

She has made four suggestions at the annual session of the congress, including the one to amend the Labor Contract Law. "It will better protect the legal rights of millions of farmers' families over back pay settlements as bosses in some areas still hold back wages of their employees," Liu said.

In the 5,000-words suggestion, Liu noted that the current law is inefficient in protecting the laborers' rights because simplistic definition and vague wording in many of its items have created barriers for the victims to defend themselves.

If adopted by the congress, the suggestion will help to remove the loopholes in the laws and ease the burden for the laborers when they demand their salary.

"I was one of them when I was a seamstress 20 years ago. Several of my co-workers and I escaped from the factory because we were forced to work more than 12 hours every day without food and were not properly paid. Thanks to the progress of the rule of law in China, this will not happen now. As a deputy to the congress I will carry on the efforts in this regard and help farmers to support their families," Liu said.