Housing evictions and tenants’ rights have become hot button issues in Chinese society today, a flash point in the conflict between ordinary citizens, land developers, and the government. The most famous case of this, at least in recent memory, was the Chongqing nailhouse, which became an internet-fueled media phenomenon. And now, a similar situation has appeared in the Fengtai district of Beijing. A group of residents who did not agree to conditions offered them by land developers for compensation and resettlement are making a last stand in their homes. As you can see from these pictures (the report is in Chinese), deep ‘trenches’, in some places three meters deep, have been dug around the homes, making it nearly impossible for a person to enter or leave without a ladder or professional pole-vaulting skills. The electricity and water have also been cut off.
Yin Yongli and Lu Guimin, husband and wife, live in one of these houses. They claim to have been subject to harassment, which has now extended to their daughter, who works at a hospital, and who they claim now wears a surgical mask and another person’s badge so as not to be easily identified.
You can see a lot of pictures here, and if you notice the bottle that appears in some of the pictures — that’s some kind of poison, which they say they will take in order to commit suicide, if that’s what it comes down to.
Earlier this month, in another part of Beijing, there was a referendum held on housing demolitions and evictions, with the hopes that this would give developers and local government some idea of popular opinion, and thus avoiding the isolated nailhouse situation a la Chongqing or other forms of extreme action, such as people writing proclamations in blood or committing suicide.
The results of the June 9 referendum: out of the 5473 eligible residents, there were 3711 valid votes, with 2451 cast in favor of the demolition plans, 1228 against, and 32 that were invalid. What does that mean? We’re not entirely sure, since none of the reports said how many votes were needed for the referendum to be “passed.” It seems like a small step in the right direction.