Hangzhou hero becomes an Internet sensation

Minutes after Mr Li (below) diverted vehicles in Hangzhou last Thursday, the crack widened and became a sinkhole that could have easily swallowed three cars. Mr Li, an auxiliary traffic police officer, has been nominated for a first-class public secu
Minutes after Mr Li (above) diverted vehicles in Hangzhou last Thursday, the crack widened and became a sinkhole that could have easily swallowed three cars. Mr Li, an auxiliary traffic police officer, has been nominated for a first-class public security award.PHOTOS: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Minutes after Mr Li (below) diverted vehicles in Hangzhou last Thursday, the crack widened and became a sinkhole that could have easily swallowed three cars. Mr Li, an auxiliary traffic police officer, has been nominated for a first-class public secu
Minutes after Mr Li diverted vehicles in Hangzhou last Thursday, the crack widened and became a sinkhole that could have easily swallowed three cars. Mr Li, an auxiliary traffic police officer, has been nominated for a first-class public security award.PHOTOS: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BEIJING • Forty-year-old auxiliary traffic police officer Li Weiqi has become a household name after footage of how he saved drivers from a giant sinkhole last week went viral online.

Mr Li, who is originally from Liaoning province, has served as a member of Hangzhou's West Lake detachment of the Traffic Management Bureau since March last year.

Surveillance cameras captured his actions on April 21 when he quickly diverted vehicles around a crack at a busy intersection just minutes before it turned into a giant sinkhole.

Within minutes, the crack widened and developed into a 20 sq m sinkhole that was 2m deep. The hole could have easily swallowed three cars.

Commentators said it was due to Mr Li's quick thinking that no one was hurt.

 

Local and major Western media outlets, including the Cable News Network in the United States, picked up the story and shared the video footage online, catapulting him into the international limelight.

CNN uploaded the video to its Facebook page and has received more than 3.6 million clicks and about 20,000 reposts so far.

The site and others were flooded with praise for the officer.

On Wednesday, the city's government nominated Mr Li for a first-class public security award.

Mr Li modestly responded to media questions by saying he was getting too much credit for his actions.

"I was just doing my job," he said.

Hangzhou has around 1,800 contract workers who are employed by traffic authorities as auxiliaries to assist the 1,300 traffic police officers.

Mr Li said he is paid more than 2,000 yuan (S$415) a month and works 10 hours a day.

His actions have sparked a debate on the Internet about whether contract workers like him should be paid something closer to the earnings of regular traffic police, who earn around 8,300 yuan a month.

CHINA DAILY/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2016, with the headline 'Hangzhou hero becomes an Internet sensation'. Print Edition | Subscribe