Monday, November 15, 2004

500 stories of misery

After having read an article in the NanFang ZhouMou, WangJun, a classmate, three law students, and I went on a little field trip. The article is about a place in Beijing where people come to appeal to higher authorities after having been mistreated by local authorities. Close to the office, next to a park and surrounded by newly built areas with apartments, there is a small area with brick buildings and shacks. This is the closest place to the office where people can live really cheap (3 RMB a night). The place is to be torn down soon and that is the place we wanted to see.

None of us going had been to this place before and we really didn't know what to expect. The other students pointed out that we probably would catch the attention of some government monitor when entering the area, and we could possible get into trouble. When asking WangJun what getting into trouble meant, she said it could be anything from being hustled out from the area to being arrested and beaten up.

We followed the descriptions given by the article, but it was still a little bit difficult to find. It is situated south-west of Beijing southern railway station. Some people we asked wouldn't tell us where to go. When approaching the area the students got pretty nervous, especially since we were standing out against the rest of the people on the streets and caused a lot of attention. People started to come up to us and ask us if we were students or journalists and wanted to talk to us. We walked up and down some of the narrow alleys and peeked into the shacks. One woman that approached us wanted us to come with her into the place she lived. We decided to give it a go, even if we were all pretty uncomfortable with the commotion that was starting. When entering another woman chasing us, shouting at us to get out. The two women started to argue about this, and we decided to leave. The other woman coming was the landlord and she probably wouldn't want to get in trouble. Since even more people were coming we decided to leave. From what I understood, more people wanted to talk to us, some people warned us and said we were in danger, others thought it was unsuitable to show a foreigner such ugly parts of China, and others argued that this should be solved by Chinese themselves without no foreigners being involved. WangJun thought that if we stayed around we would definitely catch the attention of local authorities, therefore we left the place not more than half an hour after we got there.

When leaving one of the old woman followed us, and we got to talk undisturbed with her for a little while. From what the others told me, the woman said that there was around 500 people currently living at this place. All with their own story of abuse and putting their final home in coming to Beijing to appeal. This woman had herself come to Beijing five years ago since all of her family's land had been confiscated. She had realized that coming to this place was hopeless and futile, but she didn't have anyplace to go. There was nothing to return to either.

When the others was talking to this lady, another old woman passed by and stopped by me. Holding her hand was a little child, she said it was not much more than one year old. The old woman said her son had been killed and she was left to take care of his child. She also had nowhere to go and was therefore living at this place. Unfortunately I didn't understand anything else she was saying.

None of these people asked for any money, they just wanted to listen to their stories. The lady told the students that her life was hopeless. They were students and had a chance for a good life and therefore they should do their best to try to achieve it. It was a short visit but it left a big impression.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We all know the Japanese done very inhumane things to all humans but what have we as Chinese learnt?
Keep exploiting all the poor 800 million Chinese peasants like the old Soong dynasty time and wait for the next imperalist power to attack and bully us again?..Blame ourselves the Chinese and people in power who refuse
to eradicate the known poverty in the country side
and dont educate the poor children so that they can be exploited as "Migrant workers" when they grow up
so that the rest of the 1 million coastal chinese can live well? Blame ourselves and our faulty "dynastic" system. Want to change it or
want to look for a scapegoat?
Heard of the historical classic "The Water Margin"?
It is no different then and now...just a different mask of the corrupt Soong Dynasty.

We have to look hard in the mirror first and recongnise
honestly our own face first.
And it is ugly.

Signing off
A loyal realistic Chinese
Sept 13 2005