Clifftop villagers resettled in town as part of China's poverty reduction campaign
Published: May 13, 2020 03:25 AM

Atuleer villagers move into new homes on May 12, 2020. Photo: Courtesy of Akejiushe

Villagers of Atuleer on Tuesday waved goodbye to their life above the clouds. Atuleer drew worldwide attention a few years ago for being perched on top of a cliff 1,500 meters above sea level in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Urban life awaits the villagers further down the hill in the county town of Zhaojue, more than 70 kilometers away, with new apartments and furniture, as well as new opportunities. There are plans to develop the clifftop village into a scenic spot in the future.

The first 26 households from Atuleer moved downhill on Tuesday, to be followed by another 58 on Wednesday and Thursday, Pachayouge, secretary of Atuleer village and head of the Zhiermo town, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Those resettled are all from poverty-stricken households, which account for a little more than half of the entire village.

Their new home in Zhaojue is Sichuan's largest community for relocating the poor. A total of 18,000 people from 3,900 households will relocate here over five days.

Inside a new apartment Photo: Courtesy of Akejiushe

It was not a difficult decision for villagers who have been living on the mountain for generations. "When they visited the new apartments, they wanted to move," Pacha said.

County and provincial governments have provided subsidies for the move. A family only needs to pay about 2,000 yuan ($282) for furniture which includes two beds, a dining table and chairs, television, washing mashing and other major items.

For the apartment, each family paid up to 10,000 yuan thanks to the subsidies.

"After the resettlement, villagers, who used to live by farming, will be encouraged to go to work or develop cultivation," Pacha said.

The clifftop village will be developed into a scenic spot together with the nearby gorge. A tourist company is already working on the transformation.

Chen Guji, a villager in Atuleer, is among those who will stay on the hill as his home is not declared a poverty-stricken household.

"I hope the policies can also help us move to town," Chen told the Global Times, hoping that his six children and the elders can enjoy a more convenient life if they move down the hill.

Now, his children have to board at school and only return home once a month.

Driving from the town down the hill takes two hours, and climbing to the village takes another two hours, he said.

School children climb vines on a cliff to reach their homes on top of an 800-meter-high cliff in Liangshan, Sichuan Province on May 14, 2016. The images have caught national attention over poverty in southwestern China. Photo: VCG

Atuleer drew worldwide attention in 2016 after photos of the village's young school children clambering up a sheer 800-meter cliff face on rickety wooden ladders, the only way they could get from their village homes to school, triggered public outcry.

The photos also prompted swift action by local authorities. Villagers finished construction of new stairs in June 2017 with the help of the 1 million yuan ($154,000) they raised.

Atuleer, home to people from the Yi ethnic group in the southwest of Sichuan Province, has no road connection and residents depend on subsistence farming of potatoes, walnuts and chili peppers.

China aims to eradicate absolute poverty by 2020.

As the deadline approaches, the country is focusing on the nation's poorest people, many of whom mainly live in the mountains with an adverse natural environment and backward infrastructure, or have special needs, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

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