Beijing, Street protest

Beijing, Street protest

 

BEIJING July 21, 2013. Two women with children are blocking traffic on the LiangMaHe South Road in front of the office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

 

I’m not sure what they were protesting about because, as soon as I started taking pictures, a plainclothes security staff approached me (he is visible in the background in one of the two photos, making a gesture to me to stop shooting). I walked away but he followed me and demanded I deleted the pictures. I ignored him, but he started pushing me. A few 100 meters further, just when he started pushing and blocking my way with more force, we passed the Dutch embassy. I pushed him away and said “zhe shi wo de dashiguan” (this is my embassy) and crossed the road, ready to enter the embassy.

 

Well, the embassy was closed on the Sunday, but he left anyway. Later I realized that in his view an incident of him harassing a foreigner in front of the CCTV cameras of the Dutch embassy was probably a bigger problem than me taking pictures of protesters on the street.

 

 

Beijing, Mr. Jin Xueshi’s Living Room

 

Name: Jin Xueshi

Age: 63

Chinese zodiac sign: Ox

 

Education: After I graduated from middle school I started to work in a village because of the Cultural Revolution; a lot of young people had to help grow crops in poor regions at that time.

 

Profession: I grew crops on the fields for 20 years. Then I started to work in a factory and became the director. Now I’m retired and devoting all my energy to painting.

 

When you are at home, what is your favorite activity? What do you enjoy the most?

I love painting. I have been interested in painting since my early school days, but because of the Cultural Revolution I couldn’t realize my dream. Now I am learning how to paint by myself.

I get up around 4 or 5 a.m. and practice for 6 to 7 hours every day. I have a strong self-discipline and I am always trying to improve my skills. I have been through lots of things in my life, good and bad, and now I only care about achieving my personal goals and please myself. No matter whether I will become famous and rich (as a painter), or not.

 

Almost all of my paintings and drawings are copies from artworks made by others and my favorite subjects are the leaders of my country. It is because of their wise leadership that we can live the wonderful life we live today.

 

Although the Cultural Revolution had a big impact on my life and ended my study in school, I have no negative thoughts towards the government at all. We have to regard the history dialectically. Making mistakes is inevitable during the development of a country, and we wouldn’t even have started the development of our country without Chairman Mao.

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

Taking a walk, painting, and doing some housework.


 

What is your favorite food?

I prefer food with light flavor, such as fruits and vegetables, not too oily or too salty; and I love drinking tea.

 

How much money do you spend on food per day?

There are six people in my family: my wife, my son, my daughter-in-law, my two grandchildren and me. We spend around 60-70 RMB/day.

 

Where is your hometown? (if not Beijing: do you miss your hometown? if so, what do you miss most?)

Beijing, I was born and raised in this village (He Gezhuang). Three years ago we built a second floor on the house and that’s where we live right now. The rooms on the ground floor are rented out to tenants.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

The most precious childhood memory to me is studying. When I was young, I got full scores for every course, and helped my teacher making test sheets. I used to be the leader of the Student Council and the militia commander, my role was always a leader among all the students. They called me “secretary”, which means the helper of teachers. It was amazing.

 

What are the three most important things in life for you?

I think spirit is of the biggest importance to everyone. One must achieve a goal, and get rid of emptiness. I have never done anything shameful so far. Maybe it’s because of the traditional education at my time. Call it old fashion, but I don’t see anything bad about it. And that’s also what I taught my child. My family is extremely harmonious. My son is a decent guy and he also asks his children to be decent. Also of importance: I believe that one should be practical.

 

What are, according to you, the values that one needs to live up to in life?

I have no strong desire for material stuff. I think one should be practical and be peaceful inside.

 

 

 

Would you say you are a) happy b) somewhat happy c) somewhat unhappy d) unhappy

I’m extremely happy now. Painting with my bare hands, presenting the essence of society, as well as everything I love, is the best thing that ever happened to me.

 

In a broader context; I’m pretty satisfied with the current society. I thank the government for giving farmers such a good treatment and appreciate their efforts on improving laws and in cultural matters. News is pretty much the only thing I watch on TV. I can watch speeches of our leaders for hours, crying for the words. One should always be on the same side with one’s country. ”If there is any aggression, I would fight for my country without a thought”.

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I believe that I can make some achievements in the future, maybe having my own exhibition, or traveling and learning from the world. All people in my family lived a long life, so I still have time. If my house is about to be demolished someday, I will go traveling with the money I get from the demolishment team. I’ll go to the Le Louvre Museum and learn from those masterpieces. I may also visit some museums in Russia.

 

What is your religion?

I have no religion.

 

 

Video of the 360 degree panoramic photo
(click full screen icon for best view)
the below video is on Vimeo; banned in China

 

 

 

Beijing, Jiu Xianqiao Block No.6 Central Heating

 

The No.6 block at Jiu Xianqiao was one of the dormitories for the 798 and other factories we wrote about in previous posts.

 

We walk around at a plant for the central heating of the block that was built in co-operation with the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

 

Every block in this neighborhood used to have its own plant with huge boilers to provide central heating. Now, 60 years later, most of them have been demolished and just a few are still in operation.

 

According to a worker at this plant, which belongs to a state-owned enterprise, the boilers are still in use. “It will be demolished soon”, he says.

 

 

 

Beijing, Mrs. Li

 

Mrs. Li is from Hebei. She has been a rickshaw driver in Beijing’s Jiang Tai area for 10 years.  With her three-wheeler she makes a business as a private taxi. The government has announced this business illegal many years ago, but you can find these taxis anywhere in Beijing outside the 3rd ring road. There are no standard charges, but usually the fare is much cheaper than a normal taxi.

 

We meet Mrs. Li around 4 pm. She has made 90 RMB so far today. Sometimes, she says, she makes less that 100 RMB a day.

 

Ever since the rickshaws have been banned, the police is hunting for illegal taxis. Mrs. Li tells that the police in the area know her well as she has been caught many times.

 

Every time she was caught, the “urban-management” police confiscated her motor. According to Mrs. Li, the motor costs her 10,000 RMB. Thus, she has to beg them to give her motor back. Since Mrs. Li’s husband is disabled, the police would always return her motor after giving her a fine of 1,000 RMB.

 

Mrs. Li tells that she gets along very well with her husband, who has been disabled ever since an injection damaged his nerves when he was a kid. Having to take care of two children, one is five and the other is eight, Mrs. Li is not able to take a regular full-time job.

 

Commenting on her cat-and-mouse game with her illegal taxi and the police, she says: “I have no choice, I just need to earn as much money as I can.”

 

 

 

Beijing, Recycling

 

Mr. and Mrs. Cheng have a business in recycling in the Jiu Xianqiao neighborhood no.6. It’s the kind of business you find in every neighborhood. They collect and sort out recyclable waste, like paper or plastic, and sell it to a recycling station. Typically they pay anyone who brings the waste and sell it with a small mark-up. For paper, Mr. Cheng tells us, he pays 0.7 RMB/kg and he sells it with a 0.1 RMB/kg margin for 0.8 RMB/kg. He can sell at least one truck of waste every day. Per month he and his wife earn more than 8,000 RMB.

 

Mr. Cheng has been recycling waste for 10 years and he’s pretty satisfied with his job. He works for himself and his working time is flexible. Mr. Cheng tells he earns more than people doing a normal job. He might even use some of his savings to take his family on a trip to Europe one day, he says.

 

Mr. Cheng lives with his wife and their eight-month-old daughter in a small one-story house next to the waste collection site. Originally they are from the Henan province. These days Mr. Cheng’s parents also live in Beijing, near Jianguomen. Still, they visit their hometown once a year, on Tomb Sweeping Day.

 

Mr. Cheng thinks that the policies of the Chinese government are pretty good; otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to settle down in Beijing and live such a good life. He says that most people in Beijing are from other provinces and, thanks to the good policies, people are free to go to any place they want.

 

 

 

Beijing, Car wash

 

 

Mr. Chen (pictured below in the middle) comes from the Hubei province and works in the car wash company of his brother in the Xicheng district of Beijing. All cars are washed by hand. It takes between 2 and 3 minutes to wash a car with four people and the price is 25 RMB.

 

 

 

 

According to Mr. Chen, owners of luxury cars prefer the hand-wash service. The most luxurious car he ever washed was a Rolls-Royce.

This car wash employs 7 employees and they all come from the same village in Hubei province. They can make between 2,000 RMB and 2,500 RMB per month.

 

 

 

 

Beijing street fashion, Mr. Qu

 

Mr. Qu is a taxi driver. We meet him in the Jiugong area. He wears a T-shirt with the text ‘It takes two to stupid’ and in small letters: ‘Frank’s voice dropped a bit. “When the weather was bad he would drive me to school. He had this old truck that he used in his fishing business.’

 

 

Mr. Qu bought the T-shirt for 39 RMB at a street stall nearby.

Pants: 110 RMB, bought from a wholesale mall.

Shoes: more than 50 RMB, bought in his hometown in the northeast of China.

Beijing, Real-estate development in Jiugong

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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 a farmland and 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 display a resentment against the rich and the preferential treatment of government officials that we have come across a lot lately.

Beijing, Newly arrived

 

A little over 10 people from a small village in Sichuan province just arrived in Beijing to work on a construction site. They are waiting for a bus to take them to their dormitory. Around 3,000 people used to live in their hometown, but these days more than half of them work in big cities.

 

We talk with one the female workers. She tells that more and more female migrant workers go to cities for construction work. Just like her. “There is no way out if one stays in the village”, she says.

 

 

She has a 16 year old child studying arts in the high school of her hometown. She felt the child did not need too much care anymore and decided to work in the big city to earn money for the child’s tuition fee in college. Her parents take care of the child at home.

 

Several workers reply, when asked if they carry any personal belongings like photos of family members, that they only brought useful things like a quilt, clothes and some daily necessities.

 

 

 

Beijing, Legal proceedings

 

We walk in XiCheng district at a place were a few years ago you could walk through old hutongs. The residents have all been relocated to suburbs and the place is now a construction site of mid- to high-end apartments for retired government officials.

 

Mr. Huang Genhua approaches us. He asks if we are journalists. “No, we are not”. He likes to tell us his story anyway; for this blog. Knowing that a published story with his photo could cause him problems, we ask him again and he insists that is what he wants.

 

In 2005, Huang Genhua worked as a foreman at a construction site in Hebei. At a given moment the boss refused to pay the workers. Mr. Huang then paid the workers himself, but the boss still owns him 5,000 RMB.

 

According to Mr. Huang, he started a legal action against his boss in a local court. However, the court ruled before the scheduled proceedings without hearing him. The court ruled that his boss only needs to pay him 1,000 RMB. Mr. Huang appealed and when to an intermediate court. The judge in that court confirmed the ruling of the local court and asked Mr. Huang to apologize to his boss. When he attempted to continue legal proceedings, the court terminated the case.

 

Up to now he never received the 1,000 RMB his former boss should have paid him according to the court ruling.

 

Mr. Huang felt the treatment by the court was unfair. He claims that his former boss settled the matter with the judge by treating the judge with a dinner.  It is for this reason, he said, that the judge ruled before the scheduled proceedings that never took place. Now he has come to Beijing to start legal proceedings against the court.

 

Mr. Huang tells us that he needs exposure in the media and repeatedly stresses that he has all the evidence needed to confirm of what he said.

 

Finally, Mr. Huang and two of his friends show us some bruises and scratches. Mr. Huang says they were beaten up three days ago because he did not let go of the case.

 

 

 

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