by Xinhua writer Zhang Zhongkai
BEIJING/URUMQI, March 5 (Xinhua) -- For China's some 3,000 national lawmakers, the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, is an occasion they feel obliged to attend.
The NPC annual session mostly happens in early March. Lawmakers come to the capital Beijing from across the country to review reports, submit suggestions and make joint decisions on laws and other key issues.
But Laqini Bayika, an NPC deputy from China's far west Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is absent this year, and for good.
The 41-year-old man of the Tajik ethnic minority died about two months short of the opening of the annual grand political gathering.
On Jan. 4, while taking part in a training course at a college in southern Xinjiang's Kashgar city, he happened to see a boy fall through the ice on a frozen lake. Laqini ran to the boy and saved him from drowning but could not escape the freezing water himself.
He died a heroic death, leaving a lasting legacy as a committed border patrolman, national lawmaker, and Communist Party of China (CPC) member.
Born in a small village in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County, the only Tajik autonomous county in China, Laqini grew up tough on the Pamir Plateau in a harsh environment.
With an average elevation of over 4,000 meters, his hometown borders Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Patrolling the border has been a tradition for many locals. Laqini's father and grandfather were both border patrolmen, and he started to carry on the mission in 2004 when he joined the CPC.
His job was by no means easy. The border route that Laqini frequented snakes over several mountains more than 5,000 meters above sea level, and it is so tortuous, rugged, and slippery that only yaks can transport people here.
He voluntarily offered his yaks, the major asset of local families, to carry fellows over the mountains. But even yaks got hurt during the patrols, and he would shed tears over the loss of these animal friends.
"I miss them so much that sometimes I dream of them. But I know they died for a worthy cause," Laqini said.
He saved many people's lives during nearly 20 years of patrols. Ethnic Tajik people living in Taxkorgan are known as the "eagles of the high mountains." "The given name of Laqini refers to a kind of eagle and stands for bravery and perseverance. He lived up to it," said Bayika Kalidibek, Laqini's 68-year-old father, who is also nationally acknowledged for his patrol work.
Laqini was elected as a national lawmaker in 2018, the only Tajik NPC deputy at that time. He made a string of suggestions during the past annual sessions to improve local people's wellbeing.
He called for optimized usage of water resources to boost local farming and animal husbandry during this year's NPC session and even bought a new suit for the special occasion.
Laqini couldn't make it, but Musajan Nurdun, who witnessed Laqini's heroic behavior on the lake and also as a national lawmaker, brought the motion to the session. Musajan is the Party chief of a village in Yining City in the region and used to be Laqini's roommate during their training courses.
"He is a role model for me in many ways," said Musajan, who visited Laqini's hometown before coming to Beijing. "He invited me to his hometown. It's beautiful."
Taxkorgan shook off poverty and was listed as one of the top national tourist destinations in 2019.
Earlier this week, Laqini was posthumously awarded the title "role model of the times," whose patriotism, devotion, and bravery moved millions of people across China.
His table at his village committee office, as well as the college class where he took the training course, has been kept as if he was still there.
"He is always here. His legacy lives on," said Zarefebayi Balati, Laqini's colleague at his hometown village committee.