China: 30 Years of Capitalism-Restored Brings Toxic Harvest of Displacement for Millions

Cancer victim faces China land battle

The demolished site where Yao Baohua's house still stands, in the city of Changzhou, on March 13, 2013 (AFP, Peter Parks)

The demolished site where Yao Baohua’s house still stands, in the city of Changzhou, on March 13, 2013 (AFP, Peter Parks)

The Yao home is the last one standing in the rubble of a vast development site in Changzhou, a Chinese “nail house”, the moniker earned for both their physical appearance and their owners’ stubborn resistance.

The former mathematics teacher is one of the few to make a stand against the devastating side effects of China’s breakneck urbanisation, which can see entire villages uprooted to make way for industry and housing developments — often with the help of corrupt officials and police.

“Everyone else has gone, fight by fight, tear by tear,” said the 75-year-old, breathing heavily in a bed at Changzhou People’s Number Two hospital, recovering from an operation on a stomach tumour.

“But I will never give up. It is an illegal development,” he added, raising his fists defiantly as aggressive security staff forced out his visitors.

Yao’s plight is typical of disputes over land expropriation that China’s then premier Wen Jiabao said last year “are still very serious and the people are still very concerned about them”.

China has passed a series of regulations in recent years to protect land rights, including outlawing the use of violence during evictions and stipulating market rate compensation must be paid to relocated residents.

But local officials often ignore the rules, say researchers and campaigners. Continue reading