Han Han, our favorite novelist cum race-car driver, posted to his blog yesterday about an incident over the weekend in Minhang involving a woman throwing molotov cocktails at a demolition crew. It was one of the many instances where an individual violently protests against the forced destruction of their home by corrupt government officials (molotov cocktails aren’t nearly as intense as setting yourself on fire, though). As much outrage as we could express over forcing people to their personal and physical limits to have themselves heard, we always know that Han Han can do it better.
From China Digital Times:
Having read this news story, I delightedly realized that after 20 years of development the society has progressed. The assault rifles have been replaced by water cannons. Then what has led to such a fierce confrontation? Because in the “Big Hongqiao” development project this time, 480 squares meters of Mrs. Pan’s property will be demolished. The government is only willing to compensate her 670,000 RMB, which means for every square meter she can only get 761 RMB for the building and 1,480 RMB for the land.
When property prices in this city are well over 10,000 RMB per square meter, the compensation rate for forcible demolition stays in the hundreds. That is why residents throw combustion bombs. They used to have 480 square meters and you wanted to confiscate their land for the so-called construction, i.e. to do business. But what you compensated them could only buy them 40 square meters. And then the “forcible demolition teams” came. Whoever had weapons couldn’t help taking them out and putting them to use.
For a bit of comparison, Shanghai Daily has the official version of the story, titled “Minhang: We gave fair price in demolition:”
Wu said the compensation was larger than that reported by CCTV, and that a large area of the house had been built illegally in the first place.
According to Wu, the property was owned by local farmer Zhang Quanyu, Pan’s father-in-law. In 2005, Zhang applied to the Huacao Township government for permission to rebuild the original run-down house, and was approved for a 200-square-meter replacement. But with the help of his son and daughter-in-law, he built a four-story building with 538.75 square meters, 338.75 meters over the legal limit.
The house was marked for relocation in late 2006. The relocation company offered more than 1.5 million yuan, Wu said.
Apparently, the government also gave the Pan family the opportunity to buy land near Hongqiao for a mere 3,200 RMB per meter, and according to the government that’s enough for 3 apartments and 700,000 RMB compensation left over. Though the discrepancy between what CCTV said the compensation was (670,000 RMB) and what the government official said (1.5 Million RMB) makes us wonder exactly where that “miscommunication” of figures happened. Han Han has a nice, gruesome analogy, as usual:
Do you find Minhang district objectionable? Are you curious that those officials’ jobs remain secure? If you think like this, you are too naïve, because they are Shanghai city government’s beloved hatchet men.
It’s like this: You are a department manager in a company and you give your underling 1,000 RMB to buy a printer with a market price of 1,000 RMB. Your underling gets the printer at the price of 300 RMB but still hands you an invoice of 1,000 RMB, plus 400 RMB in cash. He takes 300 RMB himself. In addition, you don’t have to pay for this underling’s food, because when he’s hungry he’ll go fishing. His only problem is he’ll run over some dogs when he drives in a hurry, sending a group of dogs to bark at your office from across the street.
Are you going to fire this underling for this? Of course not. You’ll only complain about the annoying dogs.
Yes the dogs that got run over are the unfortunate victims and we are just those barking dogs.
And that’s the long and short of why we like Han Han’s edginess. The better part of a century ago, Ba Jin likened the plight of the ordinary citizen under western imperialism to being lower than a dog: today, Han Han is using the same analogy to direct his criticism at the government. It’s got something that we like in it, and we’re not ashamed to say it: we just like angsty writers.
Photo from China Digital Times