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Uyghur businessman in Nanchang: Abdulla's story

Xinjiang is a region of wild natural beauty and rich culture. It's the home of the Uyghur ethnic minority.

But many choose to leave their homes in search of their fortune in some of the more prosperous parts of China.

43-year-old Uighur businessman Abdulla Ulaxim is among them.

Abdulla is preparing barbecue in the kitchen of his own restaurant. [Photo: China Plus]

Leaving his hometown in his twenties in 1997, Abdulla's first stop was Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province. There he learned to sell walnuts, dates and grapes in Mandarin, and made a small fortune.

Three years later he moved further south to Jiangxi Province, some 3,500 kilometres away from his home in Hetian in Xinjiang.

There Abdulla turned his hand to making tasty Jianbing, a kind of Chinese pancake.

Abdulla says those years were a key stage in his life. Not only did he earn good money, but more importantly made some good friends locally, which laid the foundation for his future success.

"In 2007, I set up a Jianbing stand at the train station. But urban management officials came and told me that it was forbidden to set up such a stand in the middle of the street because it would interrupt the traffic and was dangerous for me too. A policeman at the train station helped me. He told them that I was from an ethnic minority, and had come all the way from Xinjiang, and had a family to feed. Eventually they decided to make an exception. I was allowed to run the stand by the side of the street," Abdulla said.

The policeman who pleaded for Abdulla is called Xu Yong. He has since become Abdulla's close friend.

In 2010, the Nanchang government banned all street stands around train station. At Xu Yong's suggestion, Abdulla decided to rent a store in which to continue his business.

Xu Yong recalls this period in Abdulla's life.

"Abdulla found a store to run his business, but the landlord refused to rent him the place. So, I went to talk to the landlord. I told him Abdulla is an honest man; he had been in Nanchang for years and never violated any laws or regulations. After several conversations, the landlord finally said yes. I told him if there is any problem about his tenancy, he should look for me and I would take care of it," Xu said.

Abdulla said he would have achieved nothing without the help of the friends he made along the way.

Abdulla Ulaxim, Abdulla's wife and their daughter with their friend in front of Abdulla's restaurant [Photo: China Plus]

Lv Tingyang, a local real estate agent, helped Abdulla rent an apartment upon his arrival in the city. Sometimes Abdulla and his employees worked late, and Lv would send them some food.

"Abdulla was very busy, so my wife and I would send him some food. Other Uighurs told me I would need to prepare new cookers, dishes and chopsticks if I wanted to make food for him. More importantly the raw materials must be bought from Uighurs. I did as they said and made a stew for Abdulla and his fellows. They were very happy about it," Lv said.

15 years after leaving home, Abdulla now runs a barbecue restaurant chain of 11 stores and dozens of stands that hire 32 employees in Nanchang. He puts down his success to the countless people who have helped him. Now he is ready to return the favour to society.

Abdulla is working together with one of his employee in his own restaurant to make traditional Uyhgur baked bread. [Photo: China Plus]

Earlier this year, Abdulla gave mutton and cash to 15 poor households in Nanchang, including some seniors who had no families to support them, and people with disabilities.

"We only had little money when we came to Nanchang. Sometimes my wife and I ate just two corn-on-the-cob for dinner. Now we're well-off, and that makes me happy. But when I see some elderly or disabled people struggling in the city, my own happiness seems meaningless. Common happiness is the really pleasant thing to see," Abdulla noted.

Abdulla's wife Ruzinisham Zakir said she totally supports her husband in his activities that benefit society.

"It's just the natural thing to do. When we become better off, we should help those living in poverty, wherever they come from. We shall continue to do this. As his wife, I agree with Abdulla's gesture to repay society," Ruzinisham said.

Abdulla now has four children. He often teaches them the importance of making friends with local people, and to preserve the good traditional Uyghur values of helping others.

Abdulla is just one of more than 200 million migrants in China who have left their hometowns to live and work elsewhere, mostly in the more prosperous eastern part of the country.

The migrant population is projected to remain above 200 million through 2020, as a result of rapid urbanization in China.

[ Editor: Wang Peiyao ]