Zitengyuan is a residential neighborhood in Putuo District, Shanghai. Known as a model community, the area has been honored with many awards. But it wasn't always that way. Twelve years ago, the district was a cesspool flooded with prostitution and gambling. Its dramatic makeover has been attributed to Yang Zhaoshun, Communist Party secretary in the neighborhood.
The residents in the area came from the poorest part of Putuo. When Yang took his post in 1999, there were more than 6,000 residents there, of which 810 were unemployed, 191 handicapped, 88 mentally-disturbed, 43 drug-addicted, and 332 recently released from prison. "No other neighborhood like this one existed in Shanghai at that time." Yang said.
Yang Zhaoshun gradually won over the residents' trust. Every resident in the neighborhood knows Yang, who treats them like his relatives.
Mr. Xia is a former prisoner. In 1999, he was released, single and unemployed, and his parents turned up their noses at him. His fell back into drugs. He was pessimistic and hopeless. Yang helped him kick his drug habit and gave him a job as a security guard in the neighborhood. Xia is now the head guard and gets along well with his parents. "Mr. Yang gave me this chance, so I must do my best." Xia said.
Yang treats all the people in the neighborhood as his family members, and in turn, the people never disappoint Yang. Of the 400 former prisoners in the neighborhood, only two have become repeat offenders. More than 20 so-called "young bums" have returned to normal life. Two were even titled moral models of Taopu County.
Flexibility and wisdom are characteristic of Yang's work. In April 2010, an elderly resident whose family lived on social welfare died. The family decided to ask for a 3,000-yuan-per-month subsidy. But according to regulations, a subsidy of this sort can't exceed 1,500 yuan. The two sides come to a deadlock. Finally, it was Yang who found a way to solve the problem.
In this neighborhood, Yang holds an event every summer called "red children." He classifies the kids into different groups according to their hobbies – broadcasting group, reading group, chorus group, to name a few. This gives neglected children a platform to learn. Adults also participate in the activities. While some residents complain the broadcasts are noisy, they stop complaining when they hear the voices of the children. After all, it might be their kid on the microphone.
"One person alone can never accomplish too much," Yang said. "If everyone gets involved, our neighborhood will be harmonious."
He combined all the party organizations in the neighborhood together. Yang only required that "each does their duty," showing flexibility and wisdom. This motto inspired many residents.
Yang was also unemployed in the past. It was the CPC that offered him the job. The fact that poor outsiders long for dignity and honor is deeply rooted in Yang's mind. The "Honor Wall" is a perfect extension of this understanding. The wall exhibits the achievements of local workers, allowing them to take pride in their meaningful accomplishments.
Yang's efforts over the past 12 years were not anything of great importance to the nation. But it's these efforts that bring the residents in the neighborhood hope, happiness and harmony.