Absurdity, Allegory and China

The Kingdom from another angle.

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A Short Eviction Story

August 12th, 2009 · 4 Comments

I am unsure what more China Central Television (CCTV) can possibly do to damage their reputation with the people of Beijing, especially among the residents of Hu Jia Lou whose neighborhood is in the process of being razed to make way for business. Those who have not yet been displaced are awaiting their turn to be forced to move to the more affordable Beijing periphery, far from their former homes and out of sight and earshot of the much-loathed construction project that dominates their dwindling neighborhood skyline.

There was a small protest yesterday by thirty residents of the building that is uncomfortably close to the damaged TVCC.  According to an article in Xinhua the compensation offer of 10,000 RMB per sq meter, is less than half the market value of real estate in the Central Business District (CBD).

The residents, living in a 15-story building adjacent to the charred CCTV structure, said they were angered by a CCTV statement published in [the] Beijing Daily on Aug. 6 threatening “forced relocation”.

The statement, by CCTV’s office in charge of the new site construction, listed 35 households that, it said, had “not left any contact information or got in touch with CCTV for relocation arrangements or compensation.” It threatened forced relocation if these families took no action in 30 days.

“They have all our contact numbers, but never contacted us,” said one of the protestors on condition of anonymity. “Now they are making false accusations and trying to blame us for having disrupted the relocation.”

In a July 2008 the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, a Geneva-based NGO, published a report entitled One World, Whose Dream?, putting the number of displaced Beijing city residents in the eight (8) year run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics at 1.5 million. (Report available in both Chinese and English.)

The government’s heavy-handedness and disregard for dissent/dissenters and their legal defenders has been well documented, and I have nothing new to offer here other than a photo with a brief description.

In the early morning of June 4, 2008, two months prior to the Olympics, I wandered into Hujialou Xili, the former neighborhood directly north of Chaoyang Lu, across from the CCTV project and the above-mentioned building that houses the residents who took part in Monday’s protest. Though most of Hujialou Xili was mostly rubble, there were a couple original buildings still standing, home to those who refused the eviction order. Services had been discontinued and the former neighborhood had turned into a migrant squat, rife with the telltale smell of human waste. A few yards to the east other Hu Jia Lou residents in similar brick walk-ups watched as their western flank collapsed.

That morning I met a man walking his dog who was quite excited to see me. He asked me to wait while he called an older man who lived on one of the upper floors of one of the two remaining building. The man showed up within a couple of minutes, carrying some papers and a pair of A4-sized photos of cats that had been killed and wired to his door, a not-so-subtle message to move on while he still could. He told me that the few people who still remained were older.

He also told me he was scheduled to go to court that very day and asked if I could accompany him. He obviously had no notion of how bad of an idea that was, viewed from any vantage point. He finally agreed that it probably wasn’t a very good idea, though he agreed to pose for a photo along with his glossies of the dead cats, as well as his notice to appear in court.

(click for a larger photo)

(click for a larger photo)

I returned several times over the following few months, but I neither saw him nor the man with the dog again. Their former places have been leveled and a new construction project is underway.

Tags: architecture · Beijing · CCTV

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Flo // Aug 22, 2009 at 2:01 am

    I wish that main-stream news in the US would cover China the way you do. It would be admirable too, if like you they were smart enough to disguise protesters in pictures like this.

    Thanks for writing this.

  • 2 Steve // Aug 24, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks for the illuminating article.

    A while back, I had a chat with some residents of a hutong that was on borrowed time. One lady I spoke with, Ms Xu, offered a few interesting insights into the “negotiation process”:


  • 3 Wahaha // Aug 28, 2009 at 5:22 am

    Where did you get “…is less than half the market value of real estate in the Central Business District (CBD).”?

    In the link you provide :

    ” but some residents felt the compensation, just over 10,000 yuan per square meter, was too low and refused to move out.

    The market price for real estate in the area, at the heart of Beijing’s central business district, was at least twice the compensation offer, they said. ”

    The government compensation was reasonable based on my knowledge of house price in Beijing.

  • 4 Jim Gourley // Sep 5, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Well, Wahaha, if you can find new digs in the CBD that are not marked with ‘chai’ for less than 20,000 RMB a sq. meter, good on you. But 10,000? You’ll be sleeping on a cot in a kiosk or camping out in a construction tent.

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