Largest slum in south China’s Sanya demolished, leaving dwellers homeless
In Sanya, a beautiful coastal city in south China, a large area of makeshift shacks sprawling over Mangguo village and Xigua village (literally: Mango village and Watermelon village) used to be peasants’ abode. However, since January 19, the city government has started forced demolition and eviction that targets the city’s biggest slum.
Chen Zugao, a resident in the area, said, most of the dwellers here are farmers from Danzhou, Hainan Province and make a living by raising hogs. The profit is much more than growing vegetables back in their hometown. Their houses in Danzhou are simply thatch huts. Now that shacks here have been demolished, they are homeless.
Even though the slum is in a complete shambles, some pig farmers are still living in the area. They said, “I will be here as long as the pigs are here.”
Shack-dweller Yang Jiadai and his wife Zhang Pomei said, “We’ve been here raising pigs for seven years. Now the government demolished the houses. But we still have pigs that haven’t been sold yet. So, we can’t leave.”
Yang Jiadai (middle) and his wife Zhang Pomei accepts Xinhua’s interview.
Yang Xiaoliu looks at her creaky house. In the distance is new real estate in Sanya. (Xinhua/Hou Jiansen)
Liu Shengyang, also from Danzhou, said, “Currently Hainan (the island province that administers Sanya) is going to build an international tourism island, and thus demolished where we live. It’s understandable. After all, the city needs development. But our pigs haven’t been sold out. We can’t possibly leave. Besides, I don’t understand why the government insists on demolishing before the Spring Festival and makes so many people who haven’t moved yet have no place to rest?”
Explanation of Sanya’s administration is, since early December last year, the law enforcement bureau, in a joint effort with local resident committee and public security office, has ordered three times that residents in Mango and Watermelon villages take the initiative to demolish their houses, and has already reasoned with local residents. Meanwhile, the city government sent for buyers to purchase farmers’ pigs. But until January 19, the day the demolition was carried out under coercion, most dwellers were still living in the slum.
According to Wang Ruian, deputy chief of Fenghuang Town, which administers the two villages, since the end of last century, peasants from Danzhou and other neighboring regions came here, put up shacks and began raising pigs. The number of households that raise pigs in the two villages has reached 308. The shacks take up an area of 30,000 square meters (320,000 square feet) and accommodate a population of 2,000. Besides raising pigs, people here also engage in recycling and even some illegal transactions. The neighborhood has been plagued by sordid environment, high crime rate, high fire risk, and violation of the one-child policy.
The fire-fighting department of the city said that the shacks are very fire-prone. In 2008, the slum blazed up and killed 20 pigs. In November the same year, an illegally-built wood structure caught fire and claimed the life of a three-year-old girl.
In response to the question why they chose to enforce demolition right before the Chinese New Year, Wang Ruian said that on the one hand, the government would be held reliable if traditional New Year fireworks start a fire in the slum. On the other hand, dwellers would go back to their hometown for the New Year, which is convenient for demolition.
Mr. Liao from Danzhou said, “In Danzhou, the soil is saline. Back in those years, we reaped little no matter what we sowed. Supporting the family was very difficult. After we came here to raise pigs, it gets so much better. Now our shacks have been demolished. My hands are tied. I can only stay in Sanya and do menial work to support my family. How will tomorrow be? I really can’t tell. ”
Some netizens think the society should care more about the special group. The government should have devised a better relocation plans for the homeless peasants rather than make them live in the sordid environment.
However, Wang Ruian said, these slum dwellers are outsiders and have built shacks without the city’s approval. So the city doesn’t have the obligation to solve their relocation problem.
A shack in Mango Village is painted with a character that says “(To be) Demolish(ed)” (Hou Jiansen)
Mango village after demolition (Xinhua/Hou Jiansen)
Liu Shengyang introduces his home to the reporter. On the left is his dining room; on the right is a pigsty. (Xinhua/Hou Jiansen)
Cai Xingde tells the reporter that living space for villagers now is lower than 40 cm, or 1.3 ft. (Xinhua/Hou Jiansen)
Cai Quandong stands in front of his demolished home. He came with his dad to pick anything that can be possibly reused. (Xinhua/Hou Jiansen)
Yang Maowen eats a fruit at his home. Behind him is a hogwash vat and a pigsty. (Xinhua/Hou Jiansen)