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Building in villages about to be demolished

July 3, 2012

konjaku: “In the beginning of the fourth month, this reporter went to villages south of Beijing. He discovered villagers putting up simple and crude buildings in their compounds. These were spare buildings propped up by large quantities of steel pillars and planking. They were put up side by side next to the original buildings in the villagers’ homestead compounds. The tallest were three or four stories. These were being built by teams of construction workers who specialize in this type of work, and can finish them in just a few days. Since this village was about to demolished, the only reason the villagers were rushing to complete these buildings, was to influence the amount of compensation they would receive” (from previous post, Beijing: Unification of Urban and rural 1. Beiwu and Dawangling)

Here are some other examples of this phenomenon.

5 siblings in order to get a higher compensation payment for demolition and relocation, in a building spree build 5 houses in 20 days

Yangzi Evening News 2010-089-12

Summary: in order to get a higher compensation payment in Jiangsu province Jurong city Huangmei town,Yinjia village, 5 siblings in some farmland next to the 122 highway built 5 non-conforming buildings at a frenzied pace in 20 days. The total surface area was 5000 square meters. It was called a marvel, the most amazing non-conforming building spree in the history of Jurong. On the morning of the 10th. a law enforcement team proceeded to forcibly demolish the buildings. Before the quality of construction was extremely poor, in hardly any time at all the building were reduced to a cloud of dust.

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In debt because of wife’s illness, a man builds a non-conforming building to get an increased compensation amount

Source: Legal Evening News

2010-08-11

http://news.sina.com.cn/s/2010-08-11/190820876879.shtml

In the north part of Beijing, in the southern section of the area in which the Changping Future Science and Technology city is going to be built, in Beiqijia city, Lutuan village, house 159 is now a waste pile of broken building materials. Four months ago during a construction accident, seven workers from Fan county in Henan were buried in the sudden collapse of a wall –four died, three were badly injured.

This reporter spent one month investigating the whole story of this accident, in order that something can be learned from the loss of these four lives, and that those who wallow in dreams of sudden wealth through demolition and relocation will open their eyes…

Four the last several years, the prospect of demolition of villages and relocation of the inhabitants has given rise to a peculiar phenomenon –replicated once again in the village of Lutuan. No one could say exactly when, but somehow villagers in Lutuan began to hear the news: in Beijing a certain village was demolished as part of an urban renewal project.Those villagers with a small one story house received millions in compensation, with enough to buy a luxury car. If they lived in a multii-story house, the compensation was more, and they became fantastically wealthy overnight.

As this story spread, it made people restless in mind. Without having a firm idea of how it would come about, they all started to anticipate and wonder when their turn might come at having this good luck to gain something better.

Among those people hoping for something better, was Wang Ruishan.

Wang Ruishan was originally a native of Lutuan. He married into his wife’s family and moved to Shishang village. Ten years ago, he and his wife opened a repair shop, specializing in motorcycles. When asked what was the first thing that came to mind regarding him, the villagers all said he was “honest and decent.”

When they were not working, Wang Ruishan and his wife liked to stand in front of their shop. When they saw a friend or acquaintance they liked to invite those persons into the shop to have a drink and eat dim sum. But in 1999, Wang Ruishan’s wife came down with breast cancer.

“Common people cannot afford to get sick.” Wang Ruishan said that for 10 years, from 1999 until his wife passed away 2009-03-11, their hospital expenses were 5000 yuan every month. Every penny they had saved up they had to spend. Afterwards he had to borrow from relatives and friends, and after 10 years owed more than 400,000 yuan.

Then, when his household really needed money, there was a plan to widen the road at the village entrance.Wang Ruishan’s shop was within the area involved. His shop was razed, and he received several 10,000 yuan in compensation. With his shop gone, he still needed a means of livelihood, and he became a driving instructor.

Since 2002, the income of Lutuan villagers was determined by a three tiered system. Those 60 and above received an old age pension. It starts at 400 yuan a month, gradually increasing to 600 yuan. For those between 40 and 50 years old, in general they depend on what the village committee decides. If they weed within the village, plant cherry trees, or sweep and work in sanitation, they receive 5 or 6 thousand yuan throughout the year, which is enough to keep warmly dressed and well-fed.

As for young people, they usually unable to endure the loneliness of the village, and run to the town as soon as possible to get temporary jobs.

Wang Ruishan’s salary as a driving instructor was a little over 1000 yuan a month, slightly above average for a person of his age, but with expenses for his wife of 5000 yuan a month and more, it was still utterly inadequate. But Wang Ruishan did not complain. He felt his salary was quite fair. The other Lutuan villagers also embraced the idea that there would always be some who had more than one’s household, but also others who had less. Therefore everyone had reason to be content with their lot.

In 2008, he happened to hear by chance that  someone who added a second story to their one-story house, received 2 or 3 million yuan in compensation. 2 or 3 million yuan! Wang Ruishan did not even dare to think about such a large amount.

“If I got that much in compensation, I could pay back all the money I owe, and have enough left over to buy a small house for my son when he is married,” he thought to himself.

Most of the other villagers were thinking about buying cars for themselves. “Once you start waiting for the demolition, and the big compensation payments, when you will be able to drive your own car, and play mahjongg for ten dollars a game, then sitting around playing for dimes and pennies becomes boring,” another villager said to Wang Ruishan.

At the end of 2009, the plans for the ChangpingFuture Science and Technology city, had passed through the final stages of deliberation. The southern section involved three villages belonging to Beiqijia town, among them Lutuan village. The villagers began frantically building, and within a month, simplified structures had risen from the ground. However, to stifle the villagers efforts, on 2010-03-05 the Beiqijia town government posted an official notice: “Areas that fall within the plan for the Changping Future Science and Technology city, must suspend all building projects. This applies especially to Qijia, Lingshang, and Lutuan villages.” However, the influence of this notice is hard to determine. Instead, the villagers firmly redoubled their efforts to build faster.

4 die during rebuilding

At the beginning of the year(2010), several outsiders selling colored steel siding came to the village, and made this announcement, “those who want their homes built, pay attention. In four months this entire village will be leveled to the ground. The villagers became flustered and confused, and paying no attention the fact that the weather was cold and the ground frozen, began contacting construction workers.

By this time Wang Ruishan had returned to Lutuan village. When he stood in front of his old home and saw all the trucks going back and forth carrying construction materials, he became stirred up. He said to his son, “If this is our chance to start over and free ourselves from debt, we should take it.”

By this time most of his friends in the village had already engaged workers. Wang Ruishan had few choices. He sought out a temporary tenant, Yan Dilong. He heard from another  person that Yan Dilong had many contacts outside the village, and knew many people who could do construction work.

One day in early 2010, Wang Ruishan visited Yan Dilong, and over tea the topic turned to the demolition of the village.  Wang Ruishan asked, “If I were to rebuild, how much money would I need?” This was the big question on his mind. Without batting an eyel, Yan Dilong replied, “taking one story as 444 square meters, adding one story of brick, another of colored steel –putting this all together as 800 yuan per square meter, the total budget would be 640,000 yuan.”

Wang Ruishan was not wealthy, but Yan Dilong immediately offered to help Wang Ruishan with the expenses. Together they soon came to an agreement and signed a contract. Yan Dilong would take care of all the money needed for the rebuilding, the 640,000 yuan. After the building was finished, he would receive 70% of the property rights to the second and third floors.

However, what Wang Ruishan did not realize was that Yan Dilong did not actually have the money. He secretly transferred the building project to someone else, two times, and the budget shrank to 340,000 yuan.

2010 -03, construction in Lutuan village was already spreading feverishly. The villagers every day riding their bicycles home had to maneuver like acrobats to dodge the trucks and heaps of construction materials left over beside the houses. “Pushing a cart was not possible, trying to drive a car down those alleys was crazy –it was even possible to end up having one’s wheels planted in wet mortar,” said Li Guangmo.

One day it started. Outsiders came to the village, selling colored steel siding. They came on bicycles, and handed out advertising leaflets. In the morning one group would come and go away again, followed by another group in the afternoon.

As more and more salesmen came, competition became more intense. “At 9 every morning, someone I didn’t know would knock on the door. It would be either a steel siding salesman or a seller of used bricks,” Wang Jun said.

In order to convince the villagers to rebuild right away, the peddlers, after quoting their price, would add, “Your house will soon be demolished, so you had better start right away.” Then they would say, the demolition would be on such and such a month and day.

Putting up colored steel siding only takes a few days, but if it is bricks,  it will probably take a month. After comparing prices, most villagers chose to go with the steel siding.

Li Guangmo has spent all his life doing construction work. Squatting down, with an impressive air, he drew a building diagram on the ground with his cigarette lighter, and said, if you are making a budget, one floor composed of colored steel is 50,000 yuan, and if it is with brick it is a bit more, say, 60,000 yuan.

In Lutuan village, most elected to follow this construction model: they lifted off the existing roof, built a second floor of brick, and the third floor of colored steel. Wang Ruishan heard that the compensation [paid for demolition and relocation] was somewhat higher for brick buildings than steel, but using the colored steel was much faster. Still, one could economize on the story built of brick by using old brick. Taking into account that the village demolition was coming soon, in order to avoid any construction delays, Wang Ruishan decided to follow the same plan as the other villagers.

Wang Ruishan’s building project finally ended up in the hands of the small labor contractor Ping Guiqiang. Ping Guiqiang was from Henan. It had already been more than 10 years since he came to Beijing, without a license to undertake construction projects, and he had gotten by doing home building in small villages.

Furthermore,  Ping Guiqiang did not have his own construction crew, but relied on whoever he could hire when a job came up. When he got a new job, all he did was make a telephone call to his hometown village, and put together a group of ten or more workers without any difficulty. But these workers had absolutely no training in construction work.

At the beginning of March, as rumors that the village would soon be leveled increased, in order to hurry and finish the job Ping Guiqiang and his crew built a north wall five meters high, without waiting for the concrete and mortar to completely dry. In order to economize, there was no person hired to be in charge of safety on site. If concrete is not allowed to dry it does not achieve the desired strength This can only lead to the collapse of any structure put up at such a pace. The workers had no professional training, therefore they did not know the danger.

On 3-10 at noon, Ping Guiqiang went to the site. “I saw the wall they had built was quite high, and thought this was dangerous, and told them they would not be able to make the other walls in this way.  I knew they weren’t following safety measures…

After Ping Guiqiang left to go home, the tragedy took place. As workers tore down the scaffolding next to it, the 5 meter high wall suddenly collapsed, leading to four deaths and three injuries. According to an inspection after the fact by Beijing city investigators, the mortar used to join the older and newer parts of the house had an adhesive rating of 0, crumbling like powder between one’s fingers.

2010-08-05. It is now four months past the date when the colored steel salesmen predicted the village would be demolished. It seems it is not going to occur in the foreseeable future.

At the stone steps at the entrance to the village, two elderly men sit on a bench playing Chinese chess. People stand around watching. No one is in a hurry. But the topic of conversation is still the demolition. At the end of third month (2010-03) a number of persons came to the village and measured the surface area of each house –but after that there has  been no further news.

Yet the number of people who talk all the time about the demolition and the amount of compensation they will receive has gradually dwindled. Those who did put up an extra story of colored steel on their houses, eventually could not stand living inside the dark and muggy interior, and have already moved out.

Memories of this accident are already starting to fade, as new disasters have hit the village one after the other. In March Beijing entered the rainy season. The new steel siding cut open the electric wiring, causing short circuits, leading to five or six house fires.  A number of houses were in an instant reduced to nothing but ashes, and those families have vacated. After that, the residence space allotted to these family members was not equal. Brothers fought, relatives got in no-holds barred conflicts, especially as the demolition and resulting compensation funds for replacement housing had not yet materialized. Family members now pass each other on the street as though they were strangers.

2010-07, this reporter visited the village committee to inquire on the situation. The village cadre who was present evaded this reporter’s questions. Afterwards this reporter went to Beiqijia town government office, and encountered the same attitude.

As for compound 159, the ruins have been left as they are. No one has even come to cart away the old bricks. In far off Henan, the family members of the dead still grieve. Those injured have returned there to convalesce, but it is unknown if they will be able to work again.

Wang Ruishan’s three children paid compensation to the victims, managing to scrape together 100,000 yuan. “My daughter registered to be married but we couldn’t afford the reception…” he said sadly.

Writing/fieldwork Hu Xiangyi   Reporter Sun Zhihui

Rendering of the Changping Future Science and Technology city

昌平未来科技城 Changping Future Science and Technology city

北七家镇 Beiqijia town

鲁疃村 Lutuan village

齐家村 Qijia village

岭上村 Lingshang village

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