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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Lei Feng continues to lead by heroic example

By Wu Wencong and Feng Zhiwei (China Daily)

08:33, March 05, 2012

Students from Lingxi Primary School in Shenyang, Liaoning, sign their names on posters of Lei Feng, part of an activity to start the new semester, on March 1. (Cai Bing / Xinhua)

Nation looks to altruistic icon for inspiration amid period of self-reflection, Wu Wencong and Feng Zhiwei in Changsha report.

The iconic image of Lei Feng shows him standing in full army uniform and holding a rifle. Gazing into the distance, his face displays a thoughtful determination to protect his people against any danger.

This year, the country will mark the 50th anniversary of his death. Yet, the lessons offered by this guardian of morality are arguably more important today than ever.

With many people still reeling from several shocking events in 2011, including the death of a 2-year-old girl who was ignored by passers-by after being run over, authorities are evoking the spirit of the legendary figure to encourage altruism.

"As our society has developed we've ... seen the loss of good faith and distortions in our values," Luo Shugang, executive deputy head of the publicity department for the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, told a news conference in Beijing recently. "To solve these issues, we must look to Lei Feng."

In addition to emphasizing the hero's nobility, however, officials nationwide are introducing controversial legislation to promote and protect modern-day role models.

Lei Feng was born in 1940 to a poor family in Changsha, Hunan province. After being orphaned at the age of 7, he was cared for by the local government and was enrolled at a primary school three years later.

It is said he arrived early every day to clean the classroom before lessons, an early sign of his charitable nature.

He received six years of education before ending his studies to become a farmer, as developing China's agriculture was a key priority for the Party. He also contributed in several areas with various work units.

At the age of 20, Lei joined the People's Liberation Army. Despite being just 1.6 meters tall, which is below the height limit, he was enlisted based on his good performance and was stationed in Fushun, Liaoning province. He was also made a Party member.

During military service, he is said to have washed his comrades' clothes and given them free haircuts, as well as given away money and possessions to people in need. When he traveled on trains, he gave his seat to elderly passengers, and helped stewards to sweep up.

"If you take time to learn about his life and the help he received from the Party and kind-hearted people, it's not hard to understand his love for the Party and the people, or his motivation," said Liu Xiaoyun, 25, a tour guide at the Changsha Lei Feng Memorial Hall.

Lei Feng's life was tragically cut short in 1962, when he was hit by a telegraph pole that was felled by a reversing army truck he was directing. However, his memory has lived on.

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