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March 3, 2011

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Old cobbler Internet star bids farewell to the city

AN elderly cobbler who became an overnight Internet sensation after a photograph of him at work in the city was posted online returned to his hometown yesterday.

Zhang Tianyuan left Shanghai for Longqiu Town in Gaoyou City, Jiangsu Province, accompanied by family members and Shanghai and Gaoyou government officials.

Zhang, aged 80, canceled his hukou - an official household registration record - in his hometown more than 30 years ago when he moved to Shanghai. However, his hukou application in the city was turned down and without this he is ineligible for benefits available to residents.

When his photograph was posted on a microblog in January, web users were moved by the image of the elderly man still hard at work. Wellwishers sought out Zhang at his pitch at Guangyuan Road W. in Xuhui District, and the government of Xuhui's Huajiang Town, where Zhang lived, sent social workers.

They provided Zhang with rice, oil and medicines and visited him frequently to help him clean his room.

"We have tried our best to offer him a comfortable life though we couldn't help him get permanent residence registration and pension in Shanghai as it's against policy," said a deputy director, surnamed Zhou, of the town government.

After spending a happy Spring Festival in the city, Zhang decided to return to his hometown, as he felt that due to his age and poor health he should stop working. Huajing Town and Longqiu Town governments arranged for him to go home.

Wu Guoyu, a social worker at Huajiang, came to see him off. Wu said she visited Zhang almost every day, helping clean his room and chatting with him. Before leaving, Zhang thanked many people who had helped him.


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