Born into a Tibetan family of road maintenance workers, Lu Haishan grew up alongside the Tibet-Qinghai Highway, which connects China's Qinghai Province with the Tibet Autonomous Region. When he turned 16, Lu started his career as a road maintenance worker on the highway, following in his parents' footsteps. Through years of hard work and perseverance, he worked his way up to the Division Chief of the highway's Danxiong division.
The division is 293.06 km long with an average altitude of 4500 m. Its geological conditions make it very difficult to maintain. One of Lu's main tasks is asphalting the stretch of highway. According to Duo Ga, a worker on his team, Lu doesn't mind if he's covered in asphalt. "His pants can even stand by themselves," Duo said.
When landslides and mudslides occur along the route during the typically wet summer months, Lu's team is the first to respond. In the summer of 2007, mudslides triggered by continuous rain severely blocked Lu's division. Lu fought to clear the road with his workers for three whole days without rest, their hands and feet covered in mud. When the highway was finally cleared, Lu and his team rested alongside the unblocked road.
Most of the time, Lu is referred to as "big brother" by his crew and their families. He is more like a friend than a superior, someone who prefers being with his workers to sitting in his office, workers say.
"He is really one of us. Once we drew on his face with a pen while he was asleep. When he woke up, he laughed along with us," said Deqing Yangzong, a worker on Lu's team.
Lu joined the Communist Party of China in 1991. He doesn't claim to know a lot about politics, but he champions the philosophy that Party members should live by the same rules they establish for average workers.
"Without a capable staff, there can be no Chief," Lu said. "Whatever I ask of my staff, I apply to myself first."
Keeping this philosophy in mind, Lu is always ready to help a member of his crew in need. A few years back, a son of one of his workers was diagnosed with leukemia. Lu helped collect contributions on the boy's behalf which exceeded 40,000 yuan. He also has established a fund to help workers who are facing economic hardship.
Lu has been given countless honorable titles and awards in the last 30 years. He was highly praised by Zhang Qingli, Party chief of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Lu and his crew "make the development of the Tibetan economy possible," Zhang said.
"I'm proud of what I do," Lu said, recalling that times have changed since the old days. "We used to be called unskilled workers. Now the situation is totally different; we're much more well-respected."