The area near the new Jiugong subway station, in the southeast of Beijing, is bustling with building activity. Several new high-rise residential compounds are almost completed and elsewhere workers are preparing building grounds for more real-estate development. The area used to be farmland. We visit the remnants of, what once was, a farmers’ village.
The one and two story houses of the village have to make way for another development project. Two third of the village has already been demolished, but 40 families refuse to leave.
We talk with Mrs. Li Shulan, almost 79 years old, who has lived in the village for the past 54 years. Mrs. Li is a mother of four daughters and two sons, who still live with her and her husband. The project developer, she tells, offered her family two apartments as compensation, but according to her that was definitely not enough to house her family. Apart from that, the apartments offered where of very bad quality and they were destroyed after the case was exposed in the media.
All houses in the village should have been demolished by June 2011 according to the developer’s planning. However, 40 families decided to stay because they were not satisfied with the compensation.
Mrs. Li tells that in June last year the water and electricity has been cut off and the public toilet has been demolished. For water they now go to a neighbor across the street and instead of going to a toilet they use the open land around the village.
Because of the harsh conditions, Mrs. Li wants to move. “What else can I do?”, she says. How and when she can leave is not clear.
Mrs. Li was born in the Shandong province. 54 years ago she and her husband moved to Beijing to work as a farmer at the Nanjiang farm. At that time, there were so many farmers that the farm could not provide enough accommodation in the dormitories. Thus, they built their own house in the field and settled down.
Now she and her husband, who stays in the house because of health problems, are retired. Together they receive a pension of 4,000 RMB per month.
Mrs. Li tells that there are many old people living in this village and a lot of them got ill due to the sanitary conditions and the worries about the future demolition of their houses. A few of them passed away in the past year.
When we leave the village we meet some people who live in the neighborhood. They explain that many of the residents in the village have spent all their lives living here, they invested a lot of money in their houses and feel it is hard to leave all their memories behind. Next to that, the compensation fees are too low.
They tell about an old lady from the village. Every night so goes to her daughter’s house to sleep and early the next day she returns to her old house in the village.
We also hear a lot of muttering about the rich people who drive poor people, who lived their whole life in this place, out of the city. They express a resentment against the rich, and the preferential treatment of government officials, that we have come across a lot lately.