Update: Wuxi's Land Grab

A month ago, I blogged about the case of Ding Hongfen, a woman in the Yangtze Delta city of Wuxi. Her family was forced out of their home to make way for luxury villas. She said local officials detained both her and her husband in a secret prison (a local state-owned hotel) in return for publicizing their case (listen to my companion radio piece here, and watch the slideshow). After Ding's husband, Shen Guodong, escaped from detention, Ding says Wuxi police later arrested him and charged him with 'obstruction of justice.' Ding recently called the Marketplace Shanghai Bureau to report that her husband was released from prison on January 10th. She sent me a photo of her and Shen standing in front of their auto shop with her family, holding a placard displaying the single Chinese character yuan: Injustice.

Ding tells me her husband is in good physical health but is very depressed. She says he sleeps most of each day. 2010 has been a tough year for many rural Chinese who live on the outskirts of an expanding urban China. A report released by the China Construction Management and Property Law Research Center says 2010 was China's worst year for forced demolitions. The report says that local governments are taking on the dirty work of forcibly removing people from their homes; a task traditionally relegated to property developers. The other Wuxi residents in last month's radio piece, Xue Jihong, and the elderly couple, Xu Longhui and Zhu Damei (see the accompanying photo of the couple in front of their plot of land), are still living in their homes. Their homes were scheduled to be demolished nearly a month ago.

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Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.
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Hi, Rob,

this is Eden, and nice to see you again, I just read your post about Wuxi family's case and i see this related post, and it remind me of a book called "China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising" from a British journalist Rob Gifford. he had live in China for over 30 yrs and went on his trip on old silk road starting at Shanghai. the book tells lot of stories about western Chinese people's livelihood, and how people were frustrated about the gov't policies. from individual to groups, people were struggle in life. for example, he wrote a story about how gov't want to cover the exist of a AIDS village and not helping them with any treatment. another great example is how taxi driver were struggling in facing conflict about bring him looking around some forbidden area under the chance to be arrested; but the taxi driver need money to feed his family. Chinese gov't has extremely fast paces on building the economic compared to India, its high efficiency of implementation made them a Devil that forget the humanity, but the funny part is, Chinese gov't encourage Chinese people's patriotism by giving them a heyday image that can compare to Han and Tan dynasty. An idiom said that china was piece of begonia leaf, and now it becomes nothing. After the tragic invasion history of China, I think most Chinese rather wanna be torture by their own gov't (at least the gov't made the country better in this case) than ruled by others...




I am a US citizen married to a Chinese both living in the US. My wife called her parents in China and was informed that her cousin in Wuxi China was taken yesterday by police officials against her will. The cousin was taken to a holding place for wanting to lead a group to Beijing to inform the government about the recent Wuxi government land grabs that have left many Chinese homeless or either they must carry heavy debt burdens to live in smaller apartments because their homes are being taken and demolished to expand urban development and make profits for developers. She will be detained by these police officials until she is forced to sign a document against her will stating that she will not protest and will not go to Beijing to inform the government authorities about the Wuxi government land grabs. More and more of this type of thing is happening (People Being Punished/Harrassed For Protesting About losing their homes While Many Chinese are Left Homeless / Debt Burdened) and will be a big problem and an embarrassment to China government unless can stop and reduce Chinese people being forced from their homes in the countryside. I kindly ask that Xin Hua News Agency report about this and do what it can so that my cousin can go free and others do not have to suffer from losing their homes to greedy officials and developers. Below is a story done by American Public Media about the land grabs.



Kai Ryssdal: Over the next 20 years, 400 million Chinesepeople are expected to move from the countryside to the cities. Most of them gowillingly, trying to get ahead. Many, though, are forced to the cities as localgovernments across that country are taking land from nearby and selling it todevelopers for quick profits.

Our China Correspondent Rob Schmitz reports.


Sound of walking

Rob Schmitz: Thirty-eight generations-that's how longDing Zhongchu's family has lived on this plot of land outside the city of Wuxiin the Yangtze Delta. His ancestors have survived four imperial dynasties, war,famine, you name it. Ding says none of these was as savage as his modern-daylocal government.

Ding Zhongchu: My family's had a home here for a thousandyears, and now it's been demolished and the land stolen by these corrupt localgovernment officials.

Ding is one of millions removed from their homes by localgovernments across China. The central government needs more farmland to feedChina's 1.4 billion people. Cities help out by demolishing rural villages ontheir outskirts, turning them into fields. Beijing then lets the cities usesome of that land to sell for profit to developers.

Li Ping: It's currently very widespreading.

Attorney Li Ping has spent years researching how citiestake land from rural residents.

Li: The local governments want to use this mechanism toexpand their urban development.

And to fatten their wallets. Developers will buildhigh-rise apartments on the land and sell them for 30 times what the city paidthe villagers for their homes. In the past five years, the city has removed11,000 villagers from their land. The combined revenue from the sale of the landand the taxes collected from it has grown Wuxi's economy by an average of 15percent per year. It's the same story throughout China. But Li says thesecities have a problem.

Li: They do not have any other assets except for land. Sothey have to mortgage that land to get a loan.

Chinese cities have taken out so many loans fromgovernment banks in their push for development that they are now in debt to thetune of more than a trillion U.S. dollars.

Li: Such a very large local debt, it could cause a seriousproblem for China's financial system.

Li says an even bigger problem is the resentmentgenerated by forcing millions of villagers out of their homes. China's socialfabric is starting to tear.

Sounds of keys, door opening

Xue Jihong's opens the door to her home. Inside, thewalls are covered in crayon drawings by her 13-year-old daughter. Outside, hervillage has been reduced to piles of rubble. The government has given Xue 15days to leave before it sends workers to demolish her house, too.

Xue Jihong: My daughter keeps asking me, "Mom, whenare we goign to have a new home? What are we going to do when they pull downour house?" She's terrified.

The Wuxi government offered her a small apartment in thecity in return for her home, but only if she pays the equivalent of US$15,000for it. The city says she's moving into a higher-valued urban property.

Xue: We can't afford that, so we have nowhere else tolive. We have no choice but to wander about. I have two legs; I can beg.

Last year, Xue traveled to Beijing to lodge a complaintwith the central government.

Xue: After I returned to Wuxi, I was out for a walk whenthe police saw me, dragged me into their car, put a black bag over my head andtook me to a hotel. They kept me there for 26 days.

Marketplace called 35 government officials in Wuxi withrequests for an interview. None replied. Other villagers provided evidenceappearing to confirm they were held in secret prisons, too. Last month, ChinesePremier Wen Jiabao issued a stern public warning to city governments to stopthese mass removals.

Even so, any day now the city of Wuxi plans to knock downthe house where 67-year-old Xu Longgui has lived his entire life. He's livid.

Xu Longgui: Where can I live now? Nowhere! When they pulldown my house, I'll camp outside the local officials' homes and live there.

Behind him, construction crews work on a new opera housethe size of a sports stadium. Farmer Xu shakes his head.

Xu speaking in Chinese

The Communist Party, he says, is eating its young.

In Wuxi, China, I'm Rob Schmitz for Marketplace.

Ryssdal: Learn more about the new Chinese land grab onour website. Rob launched a new blog of our China coverage today. It's calledChinopoly.

Eminent domain is common to all governments including the U.S. Even though the benefits often greatly outweigh the costs the compensation for those disadvantaged is not enough. The reason why this story is more sensational is the extent at which so few people are disadvantaged. They have no alternative and cannot afford other housing. The methods used are also aggressive enough to be denounced by Premier Wen Jiabao. A relatively small increase in compensation compared to the developers planned profits would resolve this issue. There is a lot of pressure on all sides and the local governments have opted to side with the developers while taking less consideration than the should to those removed.

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