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Liulangzhuang 2009-2013 notes

September 19, 2013

konjaku: “In 2009, Haidian took the lead in urban transformation with the Beiwu project, and achieved a significant result. With this as a basis, Haidian started to transform 20 focal point villages,. In 2012 Tangjialing, Bajia, Houying, Zhongwu, Zhenxing, Mentou, and Liulangzhuang were fundamentally transformed, with all inhabitants moved. The Haidian urbanization process is going in leaps and bounds, extending into the south area of the district as well. The crackdown on illegal building has been strengthened with repeated enforcement efforts. There has been a “100 day offensive,” a “spring offensive,” a “summer offensive,” etc., and these have achieved effective results. ” (https://konjaku.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/north-haidian-a-complete-city-with-all-the-facilities/)

Looking at each village in this list of demolished Haidian villages “fundamentally transformed” would be  a way of examining the continuing process of “unification of the urban and rural” of the Beijing periphery after Beiwu.(For Beiwu, see earlier posts in this blog, begining with https://konjaku.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/beijing-unification-of-urban-and-rural-1-beiwu-and-dawangjing/

However, for most of these villages I find very little material. After Tangjialing, of which there has been more coverage because of its moment in the media spotlight, there is some record of what happened in Liulangzhuang , a large village situated on potentially valuable real estate (like Tangjialing) due to its proximity to Zhongguancun (Beijing’s silicon valley), and to the Summer Palace.

The first article here, from 2009, argues that reason for removing Liulangzhuang is to improve the integrity of the historical area around the Summer Palace. However, in the personal account of what happened in 2011 which follows, some of the village land is described as being sold off to become a golf course. There seem to have been numerous twists and turns in the succession of events, and many different perspectives.

Source: Jinghua Times

2009-12-05

http://www.chinanews.com/sh/news/2009/12-05/2001811.shtml

In order to protect the Summer Palace, Liulangzhuang will be torn down and relocated

Liulangzhuang is an ordinary village in Haidian just outside the east wall of the Summer Palace. Because sanitary conditions are poor, public order is a mess, and there is a serious overrun of non-conforming buildings, etc., Liulangzhuang was entered into the roster as one of the 50 “listed up” villages that needed to be dealt with. Yesterday, the city regulatory committee issued a statement, that in order to strengthen conservation efforts of the cultural relics of the Summer Palace and imperial palace garden, they would relocate the villagers of Liulangzhuang to Houyingbei village.

Liulangzhuang is near the 4th ring of Beijing city, transportation is convenient and rents cheap,  making it the first choice for migrant laborers as a place to live. Therefore there are many non-conforming buildings, many small tradespeople and peddlers, lines of small stores. It is typical of a village in which rural peasants mix with migrants from elsewhere. At present, there are 45,000 migrants in the area.

Liulangzhuang is about 1 kilometer from the newly built gate of the Summer Palace.  According to a village committee member, the rule is that buildings cannot exceed 4.5 meters, but clearly many multi-story buildings have been built, which are higher. In the city plan, the Liulangzhuang village site is part of the area allotted to building a green zone.

An official assigned to the Summer Palace said that relocating Liulangzhuang village would at least give complete integrity to the Summer Palace site. It would allow them to unify the water system and the landscape into a whole, and better preserve the cultural artifacts. Historically the entire area was previously under one jurisdiction, and there are many historical  sites and scenic spots scattered over the area. To remove Liulangzhuang village and bring the whole area under one management, would return it to its original historical condition.

As far as safeguarding the water system, Liulangzhuang village water supply is centered upon Kunming Lake [the lake at the center of the Summer Palace grounds]. Once the village is gone, the criss-crossing water channels and river courses will become clean, as the village sewage will no longer be a problem. The removal of the village will also have a great impact in preserving the Summer Palace scenic landscape as a whole.

Reporter’s visit to the area

An old villager of Liulangzhuang recalled that the oldest name for the village was Niulanzhuang [cattle pen village] During the Northern Sung, when Yang Liuyang (Yang Yanzhao 958-1014) was injured while fighting with the Liao army, he recuperated from his wounds in the village, and then got rid of the local village despot. In order to commemorate him, people renamed the village Liulang village (Liulangzhuang). Although a small village, it became well known, being just outside the Summer Palace, at the foot of Yuquan mountain, and one of the villages growing “west of the capital paddy rice.”

The village has been quite prosperous for a number of years. Villager Li said that, in the past 4 or 5 years, along with the rise of Zhongguancun (Beijing’s silicon valley) many people who worked in computer stores came to the village to rent rooms. At that time, most villagers had houses with three or four rooms. They had one,  at the most two, rooms they could rent out. As more tenants appeared, the villagers began building multi-story buildings to accommodate them.

Mr Li’s house is a two story building. He and his family live in the upper story. Downstairs, there are eleven separate rooms, all rented out for 450 yuan a month per room, making a monthly income of 4500 yuan. But compared to others, his building looks somewhat small and undersized.

At present in Liulangzhuang the tallest building is five stories, 15 meters high. Yesterday, I saw at least two new buildings being constructed on the same scale. The village has many stores, a clinic, and a supermarket. As the villagers vie with each other to build more buildings, the streets become narrower. The eyes can hardly take in all these buildings in close proximity.

For several years Haidian district has tried repeatedly to come up with a large scale comprehensive solution to deal with the following problems:  road space encroached upon by non-conforming buildings,  exposed garbage, business operating in roadside space, erected signs, open-air snack and barbeque stalls, the management of renters,  and hidden dangers to public security. Obviously, nothing they have tried has gotten at the root of the problem. Mr Li says there are only 10,000 villagers, but as many as 45,000 tenants, and this number is increasing all the time, because of the village location and price.

As for the news that the village would be relocated, Mr Li and his wife do not consider this fair. They said the village would relocate before, two or three years ago, several times, and nothing happened. Now people has invested as much as 1,000,000 yuan in new construction. If they have to move, what will they do?

Actually, several months ago the written notice of the relocation was distributed. It states that any building exceeding two stories will be considered a non-conforming [illegal] building, and demands that the villagers stop any construction. Already Mr Li cannot clearly distinguish this latest notice from the several others he received in the past. Therefore he thinks that demolition of the village will happen sooner or later, but not necessarily right away. “It’s not that the relocation won’t happen, but they have to get all their ducks in a row first.” Mr Li said, his household makes a good living by rentals. His son is in a technical secondary school,  but after he graduates he won’t have to look for work, he can stay at home, counting on the rental income. “If it happens that we have to relocate, we won’t have this income anymore, and nowadays work is hard to find, when that time comes what will we rely on to live?”

China Human Rights Weekly

http://biweekly.hrichina.org/article/1159

A Record of the Destruction of Liulangzhuang

Han Yi

[konjaku: Han Yi is an activist who helps people with demolition disputes. She was elected to the People’s Congress in 2012]

In Beijing Haidian district there is a village called Liulangzhuang, just to the east of the Summer Palace south gate, and across from the Zhongguancun  high technology park. It is a well-known for its fengshui as a “treasure site,” a money-producing area. It is one of the last three existing villages in Haidian with a history that goes back 600 years, but because of its natural advantages it caught the attention of profit-seeking groups, leading to its eventual destruction.

photo 1: A former member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress used to live in this old residence. The two large jujube trees oversaw many important accomplishments, for over 100 years. In the north corner of the household compound a villager has erected a 4 story building.

liu_langzhuang_1

In previous years, the Liulangzhuang villagers relied on the labor of their own hands, tilling the fertile earth, producing many agricultural products which supplied the city dwellers of Beijing. Liulangzhuang has traditionally held the appellation “Capital western rice field” and the paddy rice produced there was specially presented to the imperial family. The hard-working villagers enjoyed good fortune from generation to generation, and lived care-free lives.

After the fact, the villagers were informed that their fields and orchards had been sold, in order to build a golf course. The villagers spontaneously united, and went to the Beijing planning committee, searching for the plan and permit granted for this golf course. A planning committee member answered them, “no plan has been submitted.” As the villagers sought an audience numerous times with the authorities to report this illegal golf course, the construction for the golf course quickly started. The villagers could only watch helplessly as their crops were crushed by bulldozers, as the fruit trees in their orchards were torn out of the ground by excavators. While their hearts were assailed by pain and suffering, they had no one to whom they could relate what was happening.

As a matter of fact, it was the beginning of the destruction of Liulangzhuang village, although perhaps you could call it “constructive destruction.” The village committee, having sold off the fields, now took all the open space in and around the village, and did construction — built them up with multi-story buildings with rooms to rent. Where did all the income from these rented rooms go? The villagers asked, but got no answer.

photo 2: The village committee’s magnificent construction splurge culminated in a large entrance gate, with double gold-plated doors, each door affixed with 90 nails (the Tiananmen gate makes do with only 81 nails). It is said this cost over 600,000 yuan.

liu_langzhuang_2

The open space in the village formerly served as a graceful environment enhancing the lives of the villagers. It also carried the promise of a place in which the future generations could have their own household compounds. But the village committee took all this land over, and when the villagers’ children got married, instead of getting a new house, they were forced to take a portion of the existing family property, or live with their parents. Therefore the villagers built second floors onto their existing dwellings to make more room for their own family.

Since Liulangzhuang is close to the 4th ring and the Zhongguancun High Tech park, and public transportation is very convenient, more and more people came looking for rooms to rent, and the villagers added more floors to their own houses, to make rooms they could rent. The buildings the villagers built were of good condition, and attracted many “northern floaters,” white collar workers who worked in Zhongguancun. The villagers added more stories to the buildings in their compound –now there are quite a few four story buildings. Renting rooms became the principal source of income for the villagers. In a village with 4630 registered permanent residents, there were now 50,000 people, a miniature society with businesses, recreation zone, and residences. The village committee was totally absorbed in making money, they paid no attention to village management. This village with a long history gradually lost every trace of its historical character,  and changed into something noisy, filthy, and disorderly.

photo 3: This is village collective land which the village committee took over and built a building on, which it rented out. The profit all went back to the village committee.

liu_langzhuang_3

Tangjialing, famous as the village where the “ant tribe” assembled, has now been destroyed. Liulangzhuang, which is in a very similar situation, is now about to be destroyed. No matter that the villagers are still renting rooms to office workers. They now face a grim struggle for the survival of the village.

How big was the power of the village committee? What was its character? These questions were answered by events. 2011-07-17, every villager received a sealed letter from the village committee. It said: “In accordance with the demand of the city and district that the problems of Liulangzhuang, listed as a focal point village, be fixed, the villagers will all be relocated, and the village vacated by the end of this year.” “The plan for vacating the village site and relocating the villagers has already been approved by the village representative assembly.” “Villagers of Liulangzhuang have a great tradition, they consider things in their entirety, with noble character and integrity, the villagers have an excellent character.” “We must bring thought and action together on all levels,  carry out the government policy,  unify the peoples’ common interests, firmly establish a consciousness of the situation in general and an understanding of responsibility. We should accurately discern the connection between the interests of the state and collective,  and those of the individual.  We should fully display the essential style and cultured quality of residents of the capital.”

Along with this letter, the stipulations for removal and relocation were distributed, as follows:

The ratio of compensation of area [of living space lost, and living space gained] was 1:1.

If, according to the number of persons in a household, the area gained in compensation amounted to less than 50 square meters per person, the family could increase their living space to reach 50 square meters per person, but only by paying 4500 yuan per square meter. For instance, if there were five family members, and their homestead compound comprised 220 square meters, they could still get replacement housing of 250 square meters. However, to make up the difference of 30 square meters, they would have to pay 4500 yuan per square meter, or 4500 yuan times 30.

If it turns out the area of the replacement housing is less than the original homestead, the village committee would pay a subsidy of 24000 yuan.

If there is a second story, the area of the second story is not eligible to be used in the compensation ratio. Instead, for every square meter the family will receive 800 yuan. A third story and above are considered to be illegal building additions, and for these there is no compensation whatsoever. For example, if the Zhang family had a homestead with garden totaling 200 square meters, and they had added a second floor of 200 square meters, their compensation would be 160,000 yuan($26,135). This amount is not enough to do renovations on their replacement housing, and does not serve as a source of income for the future.

The price of multi-story buildings in the Liulangzhuang area is already 50,000 yuan per square meter, but the price in the area of the replacement housing is only 20,000 yuan. Therefore the villagers sustain a loss in value of 30,000 yuan per square meter. Further, in the original homestead, the villagers have property rights, but when they move they do not have property rights anymore.

After seeing this letter, everyone flew into as rage. Was this not sheer daylight robbery? Many families had built 3,4, as high as 6 story buildings. One family had spent as much as 1million yuan on construction, and they had only just finished the work. The villagers could not endure such great losses. That evening, more than 100 people assembled in the small grove on the eastern end of the village (this was the only remaining empty land), discussing the siutation and venting their dissatisfaction.

The sealed letter said,  “The plan for vacating the village site and relocating the villagers has already been approved by the village representative assembly.”  Now the villagers wondering , who were these “village representatives”? When did they convene as an assembly? Several people admitting that they had attended a meeting called several days ago by the village committee. At the end, they had been asked to sign something. When they asked what they were signing, the committee head said,  “there is no need to trouble about it. If you don’t want to sign, it doesn’t matter.” The villagers had no idea that this “Relocation Proposal” they had signed was so disadvantageous to them. If they had known, they never would have signed it.

According to the “Village Committee Organic Law”in an important matter directly affecting the interests of all villagers, there must be a mass assembly for all the villagers to discuss the matter and what should be done. Even if an assembly of village representatives had been held, such an assembly did not have the authority to decide upon a proposal to demolish the village and relocate all the residents. At present the village committee authority has changed into a hegemony. They skipped the requirement for a mass assembly, and forced the village “representatives” to sell off all the village collective land.

Some villagers said they would go as a group to the Haidian district government, some said they would try to get attention for their case overseas, some said they wanted to get a permit for a demonstration, some said they wanted to get the media to do an expose.

Unsettled, they all thought of  different things, but on one thing they agreed:  they wanted a unified plan based on the standard detailed in  the [2005 initiative]“Construction of a New Socialist Countryside.”  They wanted their replacement housing built within the current village site. First, they wanted the village committee to clear away the buildings and businesses they had caused to go up on the village collective land which they had seized for themselves. Good quality replacement housing would be built on that land. Only then the villagers would vacate their homesteads, and move into the new housing. The villagers believed that when the whole village was demolished, if they could retain one third of the total land [for their new residences], then they would be satisfied.  The rest of the land could be developed according to the market, and the villagers would enjoy the profits.

The villagers said, they would defend with their lives their homes, which had passed down from generation to generation. They would not allow their beautiful homes to be destroyed by at the hands of the village committee. Therefore, the villagers selected several representatives, and on 07-21[four days after the sealed letter]they went to the Haidian CP committee office with their demand [as stated in previous paragraph] . They also requested that the village committee convoke a mass assembly, in order that the villagers themselves could decide the future of Liulangzhuang. However, this reasonable request was ignored. The villagers have to give way –they are obstructing someone’s political career! The villagers have to give way –they are a hindrance to business development! The villagers said, the Haidian district government wants the favorable “treasure site” of Liulangzhuang for themselves.

On 7-22, the Liulangzhuang village committee distributed a notice stating that all businesses must suspend doing business within three days, or face a fine of 500 yuan per day. On 7-25 the tearing down of buildings would begin, by 9-27, Liulangzhunag would be completely depopulated.

A law enforcement team was formed by members of the police, the urban management officials [chengguan], and village committee members.  Every afternoon ten or twenty of them, wearing peaked caps, meandered through the village. A other times, wearing red armbands, they patrolled the village. If they discovered a reporter or media person, they immediately reported them, and prevented them from investigating. If a villager had contact with anyone outside the village, a person from the administration came to have a talk with the villager, uttering threats. The atmosphere in the village became intimidating. For some reason, demolition in the village was set to begin on Army Day, probably to emphasize to the villages that armed force lay behind the government’s authority.

Near the east end of the village there were five buildings which the village committee had rented to non-residents who had come to the Beijing area for a better life. These persons lived in the buildings, and also used them for their own small businesses. These buildings became the first casualties in the demolition process. Among them was one family that had lived in Liulangzhuang for quite a long time. Their building was in a good spot: during the day they did sold things by the village gate. They lived in the building they rented, their children went to the local middle school. They had a good life, they thought they had put down roots in Beijing. They never imagined their level ground would be struck by spring thunder, that Liulangzhung would vanish, and that they would have to search for a new place to live. Like an ant in a hot pan, the husband and wife ran about frantically looking for a new home. There was no comparable place nearby with such a convenient location. They asked the village committee to extend the deadline by a few days, but were refused. On the morning of Army Day (August 1) the husband and wife went out once again to look for a new place to live, and posted on their front door a piece of paper, saying, please give us 3 more days to search for a new house, at the end of that time we will definitely move out.

Their thinking was too naive. They did not imagine, nor for that matter did the villagers imagine, that the “removal” would be conducted without any decency, any pity, any sympathy, only savagery and brutality.  The excavator pulverized their roof, pushed over the walls, and crushed everything inside the house to rubble. The husband and wife hurried back upon hearing the news, and turned over the rubble with their hands piece by piece. Their daughter stood and watched from the other side of the street, her face drawn with sadness and fear.  The excavator continued its work of tearing down walls. This was the “harmonious” prelude to what would follow.

Since Beijing was in the period of intense summer heat and heavy rains, why did they not give people a few more days to find new lodgings? Why didn’t they wait for people to take their belongings out, before they tore down their houses? Why did they use such rough methods to drive this family out into the street? Too many “whys”, and no one who will answer. This family (described above) now exists in the streets. They were never considered important, no one had any concern for them. These “northern floaters” and migrant laborers are the social group with the lowest income, they have no rights because of the household registry problem. As for their daughter, whatever she once loved, and hated, has now been completely transformed.

Every day the play in which hegemonic power tramples on people’s rights is reenacted.  Those in power every day enjoy their accumulated capital, ruthlessly stripping away the property and dignity of those who are too weak to resist. By “killing one to warn one hundred” they effectively cast fear into all the other families that have migrated here and started small businesses, and all of these flee in terror at the first sight of authority…

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