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Sand and cement gangs in Beiwu

May 27, 2013

konjaku: “If you are going to do some construction in the new apartment, the contractor you hired can’t get in. There’s a gang of local hoodlums outside, watching over the place. They will let you in, if you use the building company they recommend”  (previous post.) While the person who made this comment was a Tangjialing villager moving into replacement housing, a similar situation occurred in Beiwu in 2011. Beiwu is one of the two villages which served as a model of how urban rural unification was supposed to work, as undertaken by the Beijing city government. The village was demolished, and the villagers moved into a new residential complex, “Beiwu Jiayuan.”

In Beiwu Jiayuan, cement and sand gangs forcibly monopolize the construction site


Concret gang member in Beiwu Jiayuan

Cement gang member in Beiwu Jiayuan

The gang's sign on the sidewalk at Beiwu Jiayuan advertising their cement and sand

The gang’s sign on the sidewalk at Beiwu Jiayuan advertising their cement and sand

Since 2009, in our city there have been gangs that monopolize the use of sand in house renovation. After being active for some time, the gangs kept silent and lay low, but recently, they emerged from hibernation and have started activities again.

Recently, this reporter, following up on tips from several readers, has investigated activities of gangs in Haidian district Beiwu Jiayuan. Gangs at Beiwu Jiayuan are using violent means to force builders doing building renovation to buy their sand at high prices. Those who refuse are met with swinging fists.

Recently, a Mr Chen,doing remodelling on his new residence at Beiwu Jiayuan, was threatened by a gang when he made an objection to buying sand from them at a higher price.

Mr Chen went with a team of workers he had engaged, to begin renovations on his new residence. When they got there, a few well-built young men came forward and stopped him, asking, “Are you going to do some renovation?”

“Yes, I am, what about it?” One of then handed him a business card, “To use our sand, just call the number here.”

Mr Chen took the card,” How much are you selling sand for?”

“3 yuan a bag, that’s our price.”

“How much in a bag?”asked Mr Chen.

“3 shovelfuls. Also we provide home delivery. If it’s above the first floor, we add 50 cents.”

“That’s very expensive, I won’t need it,“ said Mr Chen, “I can go outside the neighborhood and buy a cubic meter of sand for a little over 50 yuan, I’ll get my sand myself.” The young men, hearing this, suddenly turned hostile, “if you don’t use our sand you won’t get anything done –just try and see if you can!” Mr Chen’s renovation crew saw that they were outmatched, and promised to use the gang’s sand. The group then left, taunting them.

Mr Chen then understood for the first time that he had met with a so-called “cement gang.” They used force to make sure any construction crews in the area bought their sand at a high price.

Mr Chen went to the building maintenance office of the residential complex, but the staff members there said they didn’t understand the situation.

Around the same time, Mr Wang hired a crew to do some work on his new residence. The crew estimated that for two rooms of 90 square meters, a new floor, kitchen, and porcelain tiles in the bathroom, they would need 3.5 cubic meters of sand. If they bought it from the gang it would cost close to 1000 yuan, but if they went outside the area to buy, they could get enough for 200 yuan. They decided to buy their own sand.

There was a place near Beiwu Jiayuan that sold sand for 250 yuan a truckload, one load being 4 tons. On the morning of 07-13 the truck came, but unexpectedly there were several men guarding the gate, who did not let the truck in. They threatened the driver, saying if he made the delivery they would break his truck. The frightened driver beat a hasty retreat.

After this Mr Wang went to building maintenance office. There they said the people guarding the gate were not building maintenance staff, therefore they had no connection to the matter at all.

The same day in the evening. Mr Wang was walking by the east gate of Beiwu Jiayuan, going out to dinner with his family. Several strangers blocked his way. Without explanation they began beating him with hands and feet. When they left they said, “If you again get your own sand, we’ll kill you.”

Not far outside Beiwu Jisyuan to the south and west, there is a sand hill, and next to the hill there is a sign, “Local Wholesale Sand, Diamond Brand Cement, LaFarge Cement, Light-weight Bricks”

Minding the place are a man and a woman. The woman looks to be 19, the man is also quite young. It seems like these two are the sellers, but actually, behind them, there are many others in the business. These others disperse during the day, checking to see who is doing renovation in the residential area, and gathering at the entrances of residential complexes, to intimidate anyone else from bringing sand into the area.

I (this reporter) asked them how much their sand cost. They quoted the price, 3 yuan a bag, plus extra for carrying it above a first floor. I said, that’s very expensive. I can go outside the area and get a truckload for 200 yuan. The young man became somewhat indignant, and he said grumpily, “ Outside, it may be, but here, in this area, this is the price!”

To provoke him I said, “I’ll buy my sand outside the neighborhood.” The young man then taunted me, “ If you really have the ability have your sand hauled in here, that’s the question.” Then he turned and left.

When this reporter went to another building materials dealer in the vicinity, and asked if he could have sand delivered to Beiwu Jiayuan, the dealer said, “No delivery! No Delivery! No matter how much money you give me!” He said several of his drivers had already been roughed up by the concrete gang.

One dealer named Zhang tried to avoid a conflict with the gang by unloading his sand outside Beiwu Jiayuan, and the residence owner brought the sand inside himself. When the gang discovered this, they smashed all the windows of Zhang’s delivery truck, and forced him to carry out all the sand that had been brought inside. Zhang said he would never again go to Beiwu Jiayuan.

To gather more information, this reporter went to the west entrance of Beiwu Jiayuan, on the pretense of doing some renovation, I sought out the guard at the gate, and said I was planning to bring in some sand, and asked him what was the procedure. The guard said there was sand from in the area, and I should buy it. I said it was too expensive. The guard responded, Beiwu Jiayuan has a rule, that no sand from outside the area can come in. I asked, why is that? The guard gave no answer.

This reporter than walked to the road by the northern entrance to get in his car. As I was doing so, a small van pulled up and stopped in front of me, and three young men got out. One of them pointed a finger at me and said, “I’m telling you, don’t ask for trouble!” They swaggered back to their van and drove off.

Why do victims of the cement gang not report it to the police? The answer: fear of retailiation. Take the case of Mr Huang. Last year, on a renovation projection in another residential complex nearby, he refused to buy cement from the gang, because the price was too high. As a result the gang threatened him and beat him up. He reported it to the police, but because he had no injuries at the time, the police let the gang go after giving them a warning.

Things went OK for a while, but before long there were strange occurrences one after another. When he left his car and went back, all his tires were punctured. Or, super-adhesive 502 glue was sprayed into the door lock. After a while, he didn’t dare to drive his car into the housing district. Although a friend told him to report these new incidents to the police, he did not dare to.

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