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Cab Drivers' Ham Radio Community

Among Beijing's cab drivers, there is a group of amateur radio fans who have formed a "Ham Radio Community". Through their vehicular radio equipment, members of the community can talk and help each other to cope with life in the boring lane.

Zhang Tong has been a Beijing taxi driver for over ten years. But since 2002 when he was first bitten by the ham radio bug, his daily work has no longer been just about driving and making money. Now he is a member the "Ham Community" which so far has 52 like-minded Beijing cabbies in its ranks.

Zhang Tong often receives ham radio transmissions from other drivers in the ham community who seek help. And if he is available, he doesn't hesitate to drive over to offer a helping hand.

"Before, taxi drivers were quite isolated from one another and there wasn't much communication. But since joining the club, I feel like I'm surrounded by a lot of friends while driving. It's much more fun now. And I can also exchange information about ham radio with other members, thus gaining knowledge about its technology."

Other members of the community are as excited as Zhang Tong. A cabbie named Yao Lixin was saved from a potentially dangerous situation thanks to help from the Ham Community's fellow members.

"One night, two passengers flagged down my taxi and asked me to drive them to a remote place. During the ride, they changed the destination several times. I found them very suspicious and sent a message for help through the ham radio. Member divers who were driving close to me joined together to follow my car. Maybe the two passengers had a guilty conscience. They got out of my car without paying me the taxi fee, but nothing else happened."

Late night taxi drivers are easily prey for robbers. So the community has worked out a set of secret codes only known by community members in order to deal with the dangers.

The slogan of the Ham Community is that when one driver is in need of help, others from all across the city will offer their assistance. Established this March, the community has already attracted many ham and non-ham users who may at first have had no knowledge of amateur radio but simply like the idea of helping each other.

To these taxi drivers, ham radio offers a bit of pleasure during their tedious daily driving routine and a place they can turn to when in need.