In 2010, Fang Minghe (left) won "China’s Top 10 Ecological Hero Award”.
On the World Wetland Day on Feb. 2, 2010, volunteers of Greeneyes using performance art at the beach of Cangnan County to call on people to protect wetlands and birds.
Freeing a raptor
"Bang!"There was a sudden shot, but what then rushed at its prey was not a hound, but a young man.
"Are you crazy? Can’t you see I’m shooting birds? You dare report me – I’ll kill you!"roared the poacher, staring at the young man. But even as he shouted, the young man reached for his camera and captured the evidence he needed. Later he reported the matter to the local forestry department, and the poacher was severely punished.
This courageous young man is "the youngest president of China’s Environmental NGO"– president of Greeneyes of China, Fang Minghe. On November 25, 2000, at the Yulong Lake in Cangnan County, Zhejiang Province, 12 middle school students cherishing a common ideal held a brief ceremony and established the "Youth Nature Expedition,"at Fang’s initiative. They began environmental protection activities to explore and protect nature. Fang was in his first year at senior middle school, 16 years old, still a teenager.
A year later, the small youth league of middle school students was renamed Greeneyes of China as it joined the international "Roots and Shoots"Environmental Education Program. The name, given by Fang, has a simple connotation: green is the theme of environmental protection, and we should protect our living environment as we protect our eyes. That year, the 17-year-old Fang Minghe, still a year 2 senior student, won the "Conservation and Environmental Grants"given by Ford Motor Company, the world’s highest honor in environmental protection.
In 2003, Fang moved into year 3. Like other teenagers, the 18-year-old faced the enormous pressure of the college entrance examination. But at the time Greeneyes of China was stalling in its development. Having checked the regulations on the management of non-governmental organizations, Fang applied to register Greeneyes, but was told by the relevant departments that school students were not mature enough, so it was inappropriate for them to initiate social organizations.
What to do then? Two months before the college entrance examination, Fang voluntarily abandoned school. By making himself a "non-student,"he paved the way for the registration of Greeneyes. That summer, while other classmates were busy preparing for the examination, Greeneyes was finally registered as a non-governmental non-enterprise entity, and at the cost of giving up the college entrance examination, Fang Minghe became the youngest legal representative of an Environmental NGO in China. It is not uncommon for young people in Western countries to give up the chance to go to college in order to pursue their own ideals, but it is a real challenge for a young Chinese person and his family to do so. Giving up the examination means deviating from the normal course of life and society, and making yourself into a "non-conformist."The pressure is unbearable for many; even Fang found himself in a state of conflict and indecision.
In 2004, Fang started a repeat school year to sit the examination, but the newly-registered Greeneyes needed someone to take charge. Fang was again at a crossroads. After discussing the matter with his parents, he finally decided to give up the exam altogether and dedicate himself fully to Greeneyes. From that day on there was one less student among the mighty force preparing for the college entrance examination, but one more person in charge of Environmental NGOs in the construction of China’s civil society – a person who is young, intelligent and capable of great achievements.
Fang’s two-time abandonment of the examination helped others to recognize that he is a brave youth with lofty ideals. In fact, as early as the occasion when Fang won the Ford "Conservation and Environmental Grants,"Dr. Jane Goodall, UN messenger of peace, remarked that he was a "very brave young man."This brave youth has a sensitive and kind heart, but a heart that makes him stronger. When Greeneyes was first established, Fang was a child who blushed when facing journalists, uncomfortable with words and struggling to speak in public. In 2001, when Fang proposed the staging of publicity activities for "Bird-loving Week"to the Environmental Protection Bureau of Cangnan County, he had to call up all his reserves of courage, recalls Lin Chun, director of the Publicity and Education Department of Wenzhou Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
At first Greeneyes members rented a garage. Later, they stayed in the basement of a local reservoir and even in tents pitched in a farmyard. Even after they moved into a room less than ten meters square in Cangnan Children’s Palace, working conditions were still very poor. But Fang and the Greeneyes volunteers never lost sight of their resolve to protect wild animals.
During the summer vacation of 2006, Yongjia County Forestry Bureau of Wenzhou City captured six wild animal poachers who had caught and killed 1,400 egrets. Fortunately, when the poachers were captured, 600 young fledglings were still alive. It was impossible to return the young birds to their nests. This created a major headache for the forestry bureau, which finally decided to return the birds to their mountain habitat. The birds still could not fly, so their poor prospects were easily apparent.
Immediately, Greeneyes was called in to provide help. Fang and the other 30 volunteers went into the remote mountains and looked after the egrets for more than 20 days until they were fully fledged and could fly. An excited Fang told journalists: "Even during a typhoon, our volunteers stayed in the mountains. Our living conditions were very poor, and you can imagine the smell when hundreds of egrets gathered together. But we never gave up!”
Fang also recalled that the roads in the mountains, which had not been repaired for more than 20 years, were very rough and heavy, and the volunteers had to walk more than two hours on rugged mountain tracks. One female student volunteer had never walked in the mountains before, but she took sick egrets to a hospital at the foot of the mountains on her own and returned the next day. When she got back, she almost fainted. Another volunteer collapsed from heatstroke while in the mountains. He would have died if he had not been discovered by villagers.
On November 10, 2007, four beautiful white swans flew from north China to the Tongshan Stream in Fujian Province for the winter. However, one day later, an adult male swan was killed by poachers. That very night Fang Minghe and the volunteers, who had heard the news, took two simple tents and drove from Wenzhou to Tongshan, not even taking so much as a change of clothes with them. They pitched tents on the riverbank, had a meal of instant noodles, and started a 12-day, 24-hour guard over the white swans.
The volunteers stayed on the bank, keeping a close watch over the swans, and carefully following the moves of any visitors. They had to stand for nearly 15 hours per day, and each had to stay on watch for two days and one night before a change of shift. During this period, food for the volunteers on duty had to be brought by other colleagues from outside, as they had to keep the remaining three swans under constant surveillance. On November 22 the swans left the location, but the volunteers stayed at their posts until November 24, when they were sure that the swans would not come back.
During the guard, the volunteers printed more than 5,000 copies of leaflets on protecting white swans and distributed them to the local residents. This extensive publicity campaign left the locals deeply dismayed by the death of the swan, and built a real sense of the importance of environmental protection in the community.
From 2008 Fang began to turn his eyes towards the more spacious south and northeast regions of China, and established contact points in five provinces, including Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan and Liaoning. They are respectively Zhejiang Greeneyes Environmental Center, Fujian Greeneyes Environmental Center, Guangdong South China Nature Society, Hainan Environment Volunteer Center, and Liaoning Dalian Greeneyes Project Office. Greeneyes is becoming more professional. They have now started to investigate cases such as illegal trading in local wildlife, and the protection of natural ecology.
In February 2009, Greeneyes set up its south China wildlife protection hotline (40088 05110) to collect reports of illegal wildlife trading, and to assist with wildlife protection in south China. People call it "Animal 110."It is the first wildlife protection hotline set up by a non-governmental organization in China, and it has helped many small animals and wild animals to find a home. Greeneyes has developed from a group of just over 10 volunteers to an association with several thousand; the organization expanded from one or two middle schools to more than 10, and now covers more than 100 colleges, middle schools, primary schools and communities.
Through this process, Fang Minghe has grown increasingly mature and considered in his views: "I used to be at a loss at how to deal with reality, but now I will try to change it”; "We should keep a low profile in our own conduct and actions, but we should undertake constructive cooperation.”
What makes him happiest is to release rescued wild animals back into the wild. Fang himself has released many rare and precious birds. "Seeing them flying, I feel I am also free!"he says. He once said optimistically: "Although our strength is limited, we have the enthusiasm and firm faith of the young. These are like sparks that will sooner or later start a prairie fire.”
His words are for Greeneyes, and also for all the other Environmental NGOs populated by young people.
"We Are All Good Children" is Fang Minghe’s favorite song: "We are all good children, the most innocent children, recalling distant memories of happiness or loneliness; we are all good children, children indulging in the wildest fantasies, shedding tears together for happiness…”

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