Train driver witnesses rapid development of rail network
He Zhigang drives a train. [Photo by SUN JIAKUI/FOR CHINA DAILY]
Father separated from family in Taiwan left hope of reconnecting to son
A train driver in eastern China's Fujian province hopes one day to run a service to his father's hometown in Taiwan's Hualien.
He Zhigang, 54, has worked on trains for more than three decades. Born and raised in Fujian, he became an operator in 1989 after graduating from a railway technical school in Fuzhou, the provincial capital.
"My father used to talk a lot about his hometown in Hualien on the east coast of Taiwan," he said, especially the city's many fruits, including big pineapples and thick sugar cane.
His father left the island and moved to Fujian in 1944 at age 17, and for decades he was unable to return. When in 1992, the mainland and Taiwan agreed upon the 1992 Consensus, which embodies the One-China principle, he was finally able to go home to Hualien after 48 years to reconnect with family. Aged 65 at the time, it was also the only time he managed to visit his hometown again.
"My father's regret was not being able to fulfill his duty to take care of my grandparents. By the time he returned to Hualien, they had passed away," He said, adding that fortunately, his father had been able to find his sister and reconnect with the rest of the family.
Between 1992 and 1997, his father wrote home every month.
"My father often wrote letters to Taiwan at night and mailed them the next day. He was strong and probably didn't want us to see his tears for his family," He said.
Unfortunately, after an earthquake in 1997, they once again lost contact with family members in Taiwan.
"I will travel to Hualien again after retirement to reconnect with my family," He recalled his father saying shortly before he died. They were some of his last words.
During his first visit to the island as part of a group tour in 2005, He noted that Taiwan's railway and transportation networks were more advanced than the mainland's at the time.
But he has since seen the mainland's network develop rapidly. The first high-speed railway opened in 2008, connecting Beijing and Tianjin, and the first high-speed railway in Fujian opened the following year.