Paul Hickey at Shic Shanghai shared with us some images of a cab currently rolling the city streets that’s been dubbed the “Facebook taxi” and described by the driver as a moving protest against the government in response to being forcibly removed from his home in 2010.
Paul said he grabbed the cab as he was running errands in People’s Square this morning and was surprised to find the inside covered with hand-made posters filled with anti-China propaganda.
[…] This guy is majorly pissed, and rightly so, that the Chinese government took away his house in 2010 as well the houses of his neighbours so they could build extensions to Shanghai Railway Station. In one disturbing message, he even describes how the event was so traumatic for one neighbour she took her own life. […]
He told me that he’s spent the last four years trying to get a meeting with government officials in Beijing but to no avail. So instead he has decided to become a one man driving protest, filling his cab with anti-China propaganda and even parking his cab outside the CICA summit two weeks ago in defiance of Xi Jin Ping’s presence. […]
As I reached my destination I was enlightened and impressed at the man’s public courage against a notoriously non-accepting system and even though I never got to see his face (the driver area was obscured by the posters and the license belonged to a woman) I knew immediately this man was a badass.
While it’s unclear exactly how much of the cabbie’s story pans out, forced evictions across China, where the government legally owns all land, are hardly uncommon.
An 85-page Amnesty report compiled between February 2010 and January 2012 found that forced evictions were on the rise, and detailed violence exerted on residents forced from their homes, resulting in deaths, imprisonment and self-immolations.
Barely compensated forcible resident removal was found by researchers to be the most common cause of social unrest in China. In some instances, residents facing forced eviction in rural areas travel to Shanghai or, like the cab driver, to the capital to draw attention to the matter. Such was the case last December, when 12 people drank pesticides outside of the Qianmen watchtower in Beijing as part of a “group suicide attempt” protesting forced demolitions of their homes in Wuhan. A similar case occurred in February, when two men from Zhanjiang climbed onto a bridge in Shanghai and threatened to jump after they’d been forced out of their homes in Guangdong province.
The Washington Post reports that hundreds of thousands of Beijing residents were displaced as homes were torn down for the 2008 Olympics venue. In 2010, thousands in Shanghai were likewise displaced during construction of the world expo, at which point over 2,000 households had also been moved to clear room for Shanghai Disney, construction of which is currently underway.
To read more extensively on the subject, we suggest you check out 2Non’s longform piece on the “nightmare of red tape” following forced evictions.
Meanwhile, Paul gave us the name of the taxi driver, XiaWenFu, as well his his phone number, if anyone is interested in taking a ride. He told us that the cabbie said he was “not scared” of any potential consequences.