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Dawangjing follow-up 6: a trove of lawsuits

September 17, 2012

Dawangjing displaced villager Mr Xu’s family lawsuit

Source: Beijing Evening News

After receiving the most money of his lifetime, his son’s marriage falls apart

In Beijing, outside the 5th ring, in Jingwang Jiayuan,  Mr Xu sits by his terrace, hanging his head, smoking. When workers come to do a renovation project, he raises his head to give them directions, then goes back to smoking.

Mr Xu originally lived in Dawangjing village. When the village was demolished, he received 4,000,000 yuan in cash and two residential suites in Jingwang Jiayuan, which he was now busy renovating. In his 60 years he had never had so much money, but his pleasure was short lived, because his son and daughter-in-law got divorced.

His placid life was suddenly roiled by a great wave, leaving him at a loss. “When there is wealth, a perfectly good family falls apart.”

The history of Wangjing goes back almost 1000 years. Before Ming (1368-1644) there was just Wangjing village. After Ming it divided into Xiaowangjing and Dawangjing (Little Wangjing and Big Wangjing). The villages are separated by a small stream, Dawangjing is to the east, Xiaowangjing to the west. Beijing is for the most part situated on the Beiping plain, on flat and level ground, whereas Wangjing is at a higher elevation. In those years commoners, travelling merchants, governmental officials, travelling north from the city, came to this higher area from which one could see far off the Forbidden City. There they would stop to rest. Mr Xu said he had heard from old people in the village, that there used to be a wide road that went through the village, with wine shops and inns lining either side.

Although Mr Xu’s was not one of the more wealthy and influential families in the village, they had four tile-roofed houses. Mr Xu had one son and one daughter. The daughter married out, and moved to another village. His son married and the couple had a daughter. This made up their family. Mr Xu and his wife lived in an old house in Dawangjing. His ancestors had all been honest and good-natured village people, and old Mr Xu knew how to till land and raise crops. Then ,Dawangjing became part of Beijing City new residential district. The Dawangjing villagers all moved to new residences. Without really feeling the necessity, Mr Xu followed along with his long time neighbors, and left the house of his ancestors, which had now become superfluous. His income from renting rooms to migrants had been ample for satisfying the family’s daily needs. His children had married and started families, one grandchild had come into the world. His day to day life was comfortable and without problems.

“Compared to the new city, our village was just a rural backwater,  compared to our new residence, our village home was out of step with the times. However, it was roomy and spacious, and it was the source of an income for us. It was what we were used to, I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Like many other “urban villages” Dawangjing had an inverted population, in which members of the floating population outnumbered residents. Before it was demolished, the village had less than 3000 permanent residents, but over 30,000 migrants.

During those years Mr Xu and his wife lived a calm, uneventful life. Their chief source of energy  and vigor came from watching over their granddaughter. Everyday they took her to the Wangjing kindergarden and picked her up in the afternoon, while their daughter-in-law went to her job as a temporary farm laborer.

Owing to the attentiveness and effort of the government agencies involved, Dawangjing village was demolished and the inhabitants moved in just 53 days. In under two months. Mr Xu’s life as he had known it disappeared. His new housing was in an unfamiliar place outside the 5th ring. However, with more money than he had every had before (4,000,000 yuan in cash and two residential suites in Jingwang Jiayuan), how could his family not flourish?

Never having had so much money before, Mr Xu though and rethought, and in the end decided that he and his wife would keep the two residential suites, and that he would give the money away to his children. He reasoned that what he had saved from many years of rental income was enough to support he and his wife in their old age. The 4,000,000 yuan he would give to his children.  His daughter who had married out already had her own home, so he would give her a smaller portion, about 1,000,000 yuan. To his son he would give a sum over 2,000,000 yuan, which would be enough to buy a good residence.

His daughter and son-in law were satisfied with this arrangement. What he did not expect, was that a problem would develop between his son and daughter-in-law. His son wanted to buy a home in Wangjing, to be near his parents, but his daughter-in-law had other ideas. “I don’t know how she got the idea, but she wanted to move to Gu’an in Hebei (50 km south of Beijing). She said land there would appreciate, and if they invested there, they could sell later and make a profit. Gu’an? That’s very far away from us.”

Mr Xu was not supportive of the idea, but the daughter-in-law did not wait for objections, and went ahead and bought a residence in Gu’an. “She just went and bought it, then she said she wanted one of the residential suites that was in Jingwang Jiayuan, which we had reserved for ourselves.” Mr Xu thinks his daughter-in-law started a business in Gu’an without informing him first. That she then wanted one of the residences seemed excessive. They had many family meetings to discuss the money problem, but made no progress.

Who was right and who was wrong, was not determined. But his son’s marriage came to an end. His daughter-in-law filed for a divorce, taking their granddaughter with her. This made a division in their property.

This reporter attempted through Mr Xu to contact the son and daughter-in-law, but Mr Xu sighed and said,  “One shouldn’t wash one’s dirty linen in public.” He was an honest, good-natural farmer who winced when he even heard the word ‘divorce.’ “My son told me the divorce was because of the compensation fund, and the residential suite. But he didn’t tell me in detail any more than that, about how their feelings changed.”

For Mr Xu, some points are still unclear. “These two had a free courtship [not an arranged marriage]. My daughter in law is from a family in the Beijing suburbs. Although we were within the city, our family has a rural background. Even so, socially and economically they were well suited to each other. Their feelings for each other developed smoothly and calmly over time, then they had a child. They two both worked, and got by OK as far as making a living. Now, I gave them 2,000,000, its reasonable to assume they have no worries about food or clothing. How did they get to this difficulty?”

“People are sure I’m pretending, but I really don’t want all this money, these two residences — I just want to return to the old village, when we didn’t have so many things…”

His son’s divorce lawsuit is proceeding. Because his son is busy at work, the elderly husband and wife need to oversee the renovations on their suite. They also want to observe the trial. For Mr Xu, who has always sincerely believed in peoples’ impartiality, confronting the law court is a strange and unfamiliar thing, making him nervous.

“Our daughter-in-law took her child back to her parent’s house. Before we took care of her during the day, now we don’t know when they will see her next. “ Mr Yu was prepared to compromise.  ”Money or no money, the house goes to who, I don’t care about this. What I keep thinking about, is having my son granted guardianship of out grand-daughter, for her to come back to us. It is very sad that our household, which was going along just fine, is now divided like this.”

After demolition and removal from the village, many problems arose

Mr Xu said that among Dawangjing villagers, between husband and wife, father and son, and siblings, recently many problems have arisen. This reporter tried to obtain from the Chaoyang court the number of recent divorces from Dawangjing, but the court would only supply the number for the entire Chaoyang district, which did not help.

Lawyer Di Shunhong of the Zhenbang law office has handled many domestic lawsuits that have arisen from demolition of a village. She says this phenomenon is not limited to Dawangjing. When demolitions in Tongzhou occurred in 2010, many lawsuits arose over unequal distribution of the compensation fund. In Tongzhou there was a Mr Wang with five daughters. They received a 9,000,000 yuan compensation fund. The Wang husband and wife and four of the daughters  each took 1,300,000, but the remaining daughter, the eldest, only got 400,000 yuan. This turned into a court case with the eldest daughter against all the rest.

Lawyer Di Shunhong considers the Xu family as an example of a typical dispute that occurs when parents and children live in the same residence. When that residence is demolished, what ensues is a blind rush for profits. There have even been cases in which once the compensation money has been distributed, either the husband or the wife takes all the cash and runs off, deserting the family.

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