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Backpacks, books and life jackets: Time for school in China
by Staff Writers
Dazu, China (AFP) June 15, 2017

After school, a dozen children strap on life jackets under their backpacks before boarding a flat-bottomed boat in southwest China.

A 60-year-old man then sinks a pole into the green waters of the Xiangshuitan reservoir to push the punt in the daily, half-hour-long trip between the primary school and the pupils' village.

He is none other than the school principal.

"I do not have a choice because it would take too long for them to walk this far. The shortest route passes through the reservoir," Li Congshu says.

"That's why I bought a boat to transport them."

Li drew on his own savings to purchase the boats. The school is on its fifth boat, after Li bought the first more than 20 years ago.

"It has become a part of my life, like teaching," he says.

In addition to his duties as a ferryman and school principal, Li also teaches one of the five classes the small school offers each day in Dazu district, in the sprawling municipality of Chongqing.

"People tell me to stop boating because I am 60 this year, but there is no other solution. They do not want to pay someone, so I have to go on."

The crossing takes about half an hour compared to the two hours it would take the children to walk one way.

But since Li lives at the school, he must first pick up his pupils in the morning, then return alone in the evening, spending a total of two hours each day propelling the boat.

"There has never been an incident. Everyone recognises that it is safe," he said.

-- This story accompanies a photo essay and video by Fred Dufour --

China web users take aim at property clampdown
Shanghai (AFP) June 11, 2017
Chinese social media users on Sunday angrily criticised a Shanghai government crackdown on unauthorised real estate activity after images emerged online showing an apparent protest in the city over the restrictions. Pictures and video have circulated showing hundreds of people engaged in a tense stand-off with police, said to have taken place late Saturday night in a busy central Shanghai sh ... read more

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