Seven years ago, Tie Feiyan, now 25, jumped from a four-metre bridge into a rapid flowing river in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan to save a drowning man.
Tie shot to national fame and, in 2013, walked nervously up the steep steps to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing as the youngest deputy of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s rubber-stamp Parliament.
Into her fourth year as one of the 3,000-odd NPC deputies – less than 23% of whom are women – Tie is now the second youngest among China’s parliamentarians and one of just two born in the 1990s.
“I didn’t apply. The people of Yunnan (a province in China’s southwest) advocated my election to the NPC, they voted me as a delegate,” she told Hindustan Times on the sidelines of the ongoing NPC session.
A business administration graduate, Tie, from the minority Hui community, was employed at a toll booth near Zhaotong town in Yunnan when the turn of events changed her life.
Tie said the NPC platform has helped her to highlight a problem in China that she encountered while growing up in a village in Yunnan – the plight of “left-behind children” or those left behind in villages by parents when they migrate to work.
China has around 61 million left-behind children, millions of whom are looked after by ageing grandparents.
Tie proposed to the NPC that an online database should be created for such children so that authorities can monitor them and ensure their well-being.
“According to the proposal, instead of blindly helping them, I have suggested our government build a profile for each left-behind child, find what they really need, organise and use social resources and help them correctly,” she said, adding many live in rural and remote areas.
Sometimes, Tie said, even more than financial help, the children need psychological care.
Tie said the online database can include the child’s family condition, the status of guardians, income and the environment in school.
Her proposal takes into account the situation across the country though Yunnan province has a large number of such children.
Tie is also curious about the status of women in India, especially their social standing and whether they experience sexual bias at work.
“As a woman, I paid attention to Indian women’s protection of rights...such as (reports that) women are frequently assaulted sexually. From our Chinese experience, it is unimaginable that it can happen so frequently in public places,” she said.
Tie is called “jiu ling hou” or “post 1990s” among older NPC peers but her attitude to work can hardly be described as precocious. Ask the man she saved from drowning.