China / Regions

Urumqi tea store offers free meals to cleaners

By Yan Weijue and Qiu Guizhen ( Updated: 2016-08-18 13:57

It is 9:30 am on a sweltering summer day in Urumqi. A group of eight cleaners take a break from their duties and walk into a milk tea store for breakfast. Their order – mainly steamed-stuffed buns and crusty pancakes – is no different from other customers.

Except it is free.

The store has offered free meals to the cleaners, dubbed the city’s “cosmetologists”, for the past eight years, never charging for the food on the first and 15th day of every month.

On these days, waitresses will invite the cleaners in, and offer them hot food and beverages. Milike, 32, owner of the milk store, says that his kindness stems from his appreciation for the hard work of the cleaners.

Milike, a native of Toli county in Tacheng prefecture, came to Urumqi for work in 2000 and opened his first milk tea store in 2007.

Recalling difficult days, Milike said, “I got homesick a lot. Watching the cleaning ladies work in the early morning reminds me of my mother.”

Milike now owns three milk tea stores in the city, catering to around 50 cleaners every month.

The gratitude is mutual, as Guli, leader of the cleaning crew said, “We're deeply touched. They treat us like families.”

In recent years there has been increasing concern about the working conditions of cleaners on the streets all over China. From netizen campaigns on littering, to campaigns to improve pay and conditions, there is an increasing public awareness of the issues that people working on the streets face. 

Edited by James Skinner 


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