| Representatives pose for group pictures after the first session of the first Sansha Municipal People's Congress held on Yongxing Island, the government seat of Sansha City, in south China's Hainan province, July 23, 2012. Forty-five deputies to the municipal people's congress attended the first session of the first Sansha Municipal People's Congress and cast their votes. Xiao Jie was elected the first mayor of the newly established Sansha city Monday afternoon. (Xinhua/Hou Jiansen)
SANSHA, Hainan, July 24 (Xinhua) -- China on Tuesday officially set up the city of Sansha on Yongxing Island in the southernmost province of Hainan.
A ceremony to mark the city's establishment began at 10:40 a.m. on a square in front of the city government's main building.
The national flag was hoisted while the national anthem played after the signboards of the Sansha Municipal Government and the Sansha Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) were unveiled.
Sun Shaochi, vice minister of civil affairs, announced the State Council's approval of the establishment of the city at the ceremony.
Luo Baoyou, Party chief of Hainan province, said in a keynote speech that Sansha was established to administer the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea.
"The provincial government will be devoted to turning the city into an important base to safeguard China's sovereignty and serve marine resource development," he said.
He said the main task now will be to build up political power in Sansha to ensure efficient management.
The city government is located on the 2.13-square km Yongxing Island, the largest island in the Xisha Islands group.
Wei Qiqiang, a 61-year-old fisherman on the island, said fishermen used to live in huts made of wood panels when he first arrived on the isolated island in 1979.
The island has now taken the shape of a city with infrastructure including a small military airport, a sea port, roads, a clinic, a post office and an observatory.
On Tuesday, 613 local residents living off fishing became official residents of Sansha.
The ship Qiongzhou III currently serves as the only lifeline sending in supplies like rice, vegetables and medicine from the mainland.
The ship with a carrying capacity of 760 tonnes can take up to 200 passengers. It makes two round trips a month, weather permitting.
Wang Chunyan, an employee of the Xisha Supermarket, said she moved from Haikou, capital of Hainan, to Yongxing Island at the beginning of the year, as she foresaw good business prospects on the island.
The 21-year-old woman said her father had been working on the supply ship for more than 20 years. She has become familiar with the island, and did not worry about the living conditions there before she came.
However, to most locals, the trouble of living on the island is the lack of medicare services. But this problem should be solved after the New Xisha People's Hospital is completed. It is scheduled to open by the end of the year.
Huang Liangshan, a local fisherman, said he expects to soon see tourists wandering the city's streets.
"I will set up a small restaurant serving sea food after tourists are allowed to visit. It will make my fishing hauls sell better," said the 32-year-old fisherman who has been living on the island since the age of 19.
His family of seven live in a wooden house, which has all necessary home appliances including a TV set which receives satellite programs, telephone, fridge and air conditioners.
The newly elected city government has planned to make tourism one of three economic engines for the development of Sansha city, besides fishing and oil and gas exploration, according to Xia Jie, the city mayor elected on Monday.
The former head of the Hainan Provincial Agriculture Department said the first Sansha municipal government will be devoted to administrative management, economic development, people's livelihoods and environmental protection in the coming five years.