'Citizen diplomats' from Urbana visiting China

'Citizen diplomats' from Urbana visiting China

URBANA — City officials and other people involved in Urbana's sister city program left for China on Wednesday, hoping to involve another international community in their efforts.

Six "citizen diplomats," including Mayor Laurel Prussing, Alderman Dennis Roberts and Alderwoman Diane Marlin, are traveling to Guangzhou City in China in an effort to strengthen their sister city partnership and involve the Chinese community in Urbana's efforts in Africa.

Guangzhou is northwest of Hong Kong in southern China and has a population of more than 10 million. Roberts said a city of its size is much too big to form a meaningful sister city connection, so they are focusing on working with a smaller area, the Haizhu District, which has a population under 1 million.

They will invite Guangzhou officials to participate in Urbana's $100,000 grant to improve solid waste collection and organic composting in Zomba, Malawi. That grant was provided by Sister Cities International and included no city funds.

Guangzhou officials visited Urbana for two days last year.

According to Roberts, the Urbana delegation will spend four days in Haizhu, and then the group will take an additional week to visit points of interest in Shanghai, Xian, and Beijing. No city funds are being used for the trip, Roberts said, and the group will return to Urbana on July 31.

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