Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Residents are Angry

For days, residents chatted excitedly among themselves in the apartment complex where I'm staying, while cops watched wearily from their patrol cars just outside the gate. The compound is perhaps the most expensive in the neighborhood, beautifully landscaped with lush plants and flowers and with a tiny muddy river running through it.

The agitation came from the river--the government wants to clean up the river and turn the banks into public recreation areas with boat docks and bike tracks. Not a bad idea considering how polluted the river is right now. But the residents are angry--as property owners, they had not been consulted before being told that walls would be built along the banks and their apartment compound's land would shrink.

That would decrease the value of our property! One resident seethed.

Owners' association organized late-night planning meetings and public rallies. Huge banners unfurled from the top of the tallest building proclaiming the residents' "strongest resistance." On Saturday afternoon during a rally a resident was arrested after an altercation with a plainclothes cop. More confrontation. Riot police was called in. The intersection was jammed.

A resident said that he had taken photos of the plainclothes cop and he would post it on the Internet. Another chimed this is our property, they can't do whatever they want here; doesn't the government want a harmonious society; we are all for harmony here! (A beer-bellied cop chuckled awkwardly nearby.)

A day later I came down the building and saw two cops helplessly surrounded by angry residents again. Many were yelling "get off our property," "you don't have any right to be here." Even a kid learned fast--"Get out, cop!" he screamed at the top of his voice.

It's exciting that finally one hears some angry voices up close. Only confrontation begets negotiation which begets some semblance of true harmony.

Let one hundred voices bloom.

6 comments:

Dezza said...

this is another reason why i'd never buy property in the PRC...it's already bad enough with earthquakes, air/water/ground pollution, floods, etc.

Beijing Loafer said...

But as property owner, you could help push the rule of law in China. The police dares not harrass moneyed class. So buy a property you! :)

Geoff Ng said...

Hey,

I'm writing an article for SL Magazine here in Shanghai, and I'd like to get you for an interview. Drop me a line if you're interested.

Geoff

minggie said...

I think it's an interesting clash, can't wait to see how it unfolds. The Chinese government officials are still behind in terms of protecting property rights. In the western point of view, it's natural to consult the residents before making any changes. Chinese government to date probably still is caught off guard that they will ever need to ask before doing anything, after all for 50 years chinese have followed "community (aka the government) interests above individual rights".

Beijing Loafer said...

I guess the outcome is good enough--a week later a notice was posted on the bulletin board that the relevant government agency will come to hear the residents' opinions; but it stressed that by no means it meant grievances would be addressed.

"For information gathering only."

Harry said...

I think residents and government will get a prople outcome.