Police and village officials go door to door

Police on the right, village government employee on the left

There's nothing to see here...

Checkpoints like this one at each entrance to Xian Village will check visitors for a special "entry exit card."

Police and village officials began going door to door over the past few weeks, registering tenants and landlords who remain in the village. Each village census official is accompanied by a police officer, who according to one villager I spoke with, is meant to ensure the census taker’s safety. In turn, the village census taker with whom I spoke, told me that the census is meant to ensure the villager’s safety in case of disaster.

Two days ago the village government erected small buildings at each entrance to Xian Villages. Only those with a special “entry exit card” will be permitted to enter the village.

 

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Moving Out

Residents leaving with belongings through the southwest gate of Xian Village. Authorities timed the eviction to coincide with the Chinese New Year, the traditional time when migrants will return to their family home to spend upwards of a month. The propaganda poster with smiling faces reads, "With one heart and mind take action Together build a civilized Guangzhou City."

Residents prepare to move. Two children guard piles of belongings while the father makes trips up and down the stairs.

Everything must go! Store owners post black and white posters that announce how many days until the owners leave.

On December 25, 2011, posters appeared around the village announcing that all stores must close. The tenants of stores, given only fifteen days notice, must  move, sell, or give away their products and abandon all investments in their property. I met one small restaurant owner who, after renovating six months ago, will leave this week and lose much of the investment. While the villagers who have property rights will receive compensation, albeit limited, migrants receive no compensation for the costs of moving or other losses.

The cumulative effect  of urban village development in Guangzhou is to push migrants out of the inner city entirely.  On January 6th I met a young man from Hunan Province who was preparing to return home for the Chinese New Year Holiday. He said that rent for a single room in Xian Village is 3-400 RMB per month, but that when he returns to Guangzhou after the holiday he will have to pay 5-600 RMB to find housing in one of the surrounding area. The development of Xian Village will effectively raise the housing cost of thousands of migrants by 1-200 RMB per month or force them into less central areas. In this way, the market, rather than hukou (official household registration system), becomes a larger barrier to rural-urban migration. Much of this blog focuses on the conflict between villagers with property rights and the local government which seeks to purchase those rights, but it is important to remember that the migrants receive no entitlements or considerations.

Views of Xian Village from above

Xian Village from the 16th floor of the Chun Du Hotel, Huangpu Dadao, facing southeast

View from Chundu Hotel, Huangpu Dadao, facing south

Xian Village is not labeled, but it is the entire city block in which you see the lake.

Xian Village by satellite. The apartment developments at the bottom are similar to those which will occupy Xian Village under the proposed plan.

Xian Village lies within Guangzhou's new Central Business District. Surrounded by modern shopping malls, 100 story office buildings, and modern apartment developments, Xian Village and its hodgepodge of slumlike alleyways sit on valuable real estate.

From above, it is easy to understand the motivations behind Xian Village’s development. Xian Village lies walking distance away from Guangzhou’s new Opera House, Provincial History Museum, new library, Ritz-Carlton, Westin Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel, six 100 story office buildings nearing completion, and an expansive park. In contrast, in Xian Village, sunlight light squeezes through the cracks in between poorly planned buildings and barred windows.

Yet as propaganda posters praise the value of sharing in development and harmonious growth,  it is uncertain who currently living within Xian Village’s newly constructed walls will have the opportunity to enjoy the future space.

 

Images of Xian Village

Upper: Foreground- rubble from earlier forced demolitions. Middle- buildings vacated by villagers who have signed away their land. Rising in the background- high rise apartment developments, the kind which may eventually stand in Xian Village’s place.

The streets of Xian Village. Buildings canopy over the alleyway and trash flows from empty buildings.

The government builds walls, evicts migrants, life in village becomes more difficult

On December 25, 2011, a new set of official announcements appeared on walls all around Xian Village. The announcement proclaimed that all migrants living within Xian Village would have to leave Xian Village by January 9, 2012- within 15 days. The announcement also proclaimed that all streetside commerce would forbidden. At the same time, construction crews surrounded the village and began building ten foot high walls surrounding the entire village and limiting traffic in and out to a handful of tightly monitored gates. Other announcements proclaimed that after January 9th, only those with an entry and exit card, granted by the Xian Village Development Company, could enter the village.

In early January I visited Xian Village and spoke with migrants and villagers about the upcoming eviction and related regulations. Three wheeled carts crowded the village streets carrying away people’s belongings. A migrant from Hunan province told me that the new regulations are taking place now, as the Chinese New Year approaches, because migrants are already preparing to leave to return to their home towns for the New Year Festival. He said he would return to Guangzhou after the festival, but that he would have to move to a place less centrally located. He says rents for a single room in Xian Village are 300-400 RMB per month and outside the village will be 500-600 RMB per month.

Next I met a 60+ year old villager who grabbed my arm and brought me to one of the new walls surrounding the villagers. As a group of policemen stood nearby, she screamed, using me as an excuse to vent to the police),  and described the ways in which the village government is attempting to coerce those living in Xian Village to leave. She said the walls were meant to monitor traffic into the village and to make life difficult for residents, many of whom would have to walk twenty minutes out of their way to exit and enter through the new gates. She says that the walls turn the village into a fire-trap, exacerbated by demolition debris and trash scattered in the village. The eviction of migrants is meant to eliminate the rental income of landlord villagers and thereby entice them to sign agreements ceding their land. The removal of food and grocery vendors will starve many of the remaining villagers, some of whom are too old and week to walk outside of the village to buy goods.

 

Vacated buildings rise within Xian Villages new wall. Propaganda posters read, "fair and equal, conducted according to the law, reasonable compensation, untied subsidy policy (poor translation), the earlier villagers sign away their land, the greater the benefit."