Following Bill Weigand’s term as Mayor of Whitehorse in 1991 to 1994, he and Jeri volunteered their services to the Chinese government and were assigned to Qinghai province in Western China. After one year there, the next assignment was to Beihai in Southeast China in the year 1997-1998. For these services they were honoured in Beijing on October 1, 1998 – National Day – in the Great Hall of the People. This “Friendship Award” presented by the Vice Premier of Foreign Affairs, is the highest honour bestowed on foreigners. Bill and Jeri were one of 46 foreign experts recognized that year out of 80,000 volunteers in China that year. They then had a photo taken with Premier Shu Rongji.
Beihai is the Pearl Capital of China, a beautiful coastal city on the Bay of Tonkin, 40 miles from the Vietnam border. The climate is sub tropical.
Assigned to the Beihai Bureau of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, the main task for Bill was to connect Canadian companies with Chinese corporations and instruct the Foreign Trade staff in communications and to help improve their English. Jeri was seconded to work with the president and office staff of Brothers Pyrotechnics Corporation, one of the largest in China. Jeri’s work extended to teaching English to the middle management of the new Beihai Shangri-La hotel and then for a period of working with the teachers and students of Beihai No. 1 Middle School.
The highlight of the year was the visit of the Hougen Group bringing news from home and a suitcase filled with goodies.