In everyday conversation, forced evictions and demolitions are thought to be widespread.
However, except through site visits and conversations with local people it is difficult to ascertain which cities are most widely affected because there is a moratorium on reporting about actual cases. The Chinese media “reports happy things and not things that cause worry (报喜不报忧)”. In a situation like Meizhou this means that it is easy to find building plans and economic projections, but nearly impossible (except through more privatized forms of communication such as blogs and we chat) to find any reportage on actual events in real time.
The silence about the actual situation not only isolates vulnerable communities from larger social help, but also obfuscates the government’s role in the process. In a word, because there is no independent source of news, there is also no way of confidently reading a situation. Rumors fly, fear spreads, and the expression “hoodlum government (流氓政府)” is used when people know that they are being threatened in the name of a government program, but do not know if those threatening them are members of the police force, a particular government bureau, or actual thugs-for-hire.
Unfortunately, with respect to rural construction (乡建), hoodlum government is supposed to be the norm rather than the exception because we’ve stopped giving the government the benefit of the doubt.
Reported detained are: Gu Zhengqi (古正q奇) and Gu Wenchang (古文昌). Villagers barricaded the road into their village to prevent bulldozers from entering. The barricade stretched between Gu Zhengqi and Ge Wenchang’s neighboring houses.
Reports of hoodlum government in Meizhou include:
1. Threatening to have a student’s college acceptance revoked if the head of house doesn’t sign over property rights;
2. Allowing for the destruction or decay of houses because there is no compensation for unusable buildings;
3. At the same time, preventing villagers from repairing their homes;
4. Refusing to give fair compensation for property when villagers do negotiate;
5. Filling in waterways to create roads. This gives government officials and their proxies access to villages and makes it impossible to maintain rice paddies, which require regulated inundation and drainage;
6. Disrupting village elections and appointing grassroots level leaders who support government policy;
And 7. Destroying villagers’ cellphones, cameras and recorders to prevent documentation of the process, which in turn also makes reporting on the situation a “he said, she said situation”.
Below are images from our trip to Meizhou. Villagers hold pictures of detained family members and receipts for hospital care after a beating. They are standing in front of there houses or where their houses used to stand. The documents show a villager appraisal of his home and government response. The standard rebuttal, “too expensive”.
The other five entries in this series are:
Part I/ Meizhou: The Violence of Rural (re)Construction
Part III/ Meizhou: Living Genealogies
Part IV/ Meizhou: What Gets Preserved
Part V/ Meizhou: Lessons from Shenzhen
Meizhou VI/ Meizhou: Selected Translations