For all the Chinese who will enjoy the very real benefits of Beijing’s Olympic-related improvements, such as the renovation and indeed rebirth of the subway system, there are ordinary citizens far from the spotlight who have simply been overrun by civic transformations made with little regard for those who are displaced.
Grand avenues are a tradition in China, in keeping with the aspirations of an exploding economy gripped by rightful pride and thousands of new cars. But for those who live and work in the dusty, flat outskirts of the city, there is little reason stated in public for the removal of every single shade tree on Chaoyang Street, or the wholesale destruction of hundreds of small businesses. What are no doubt necessary improvements for all have become bitter pills to the proud, patriotic Chinese who posted this public plea for help in their windows, their restaurant now standing alone in a sea of rubble close to three miles long.
“To All “San Jian Fang Xiang” Small and Medium-Sized Business Owners:
Dear Mayor (of Beijing Municipality)
We are individual store owners in the San Jian Fang, Chao Yang area. Today, we get down on our knees to beg the authorities to give us justice. First of all, we are Chinese citizens – we love our country, and we love the Party. As individual businessmen, even though we are in different fields, we all contribute to the State’s development in our own way.
Now, for the Olympics, Chao Yang Street needs to be widened. As Chinese citizens, it is our responsibility to sacrifice our personal benefit for the country’s development. We hope that giving up the businesses we live on contributes toward the success of the Olympics. But no government body or demolition group has explained this to us or even sent us a notice. We are facing mandatory eviction. We really do not understand why, when the Government and the Party has repeatedly announced this kind of "ye man" or “savage destruction” will no longer be permitted, this is still going on. On top of this, we have been deprived of our right to know why this is happening.
We are all small and medium-size establishments. In other words, among us, there are no big players. We don’t have money or power – we’re living at the lowest level. Mandatory eviction means taking the food from our mouths. We believe that the Government and the Party will not give up on us or ignore our deaths, seeing people like us lose their means to survive.
Many of us are laid-off workers, ex-soldiers, people with handicaps, and those who are retired. When we lost our jobs, we did not become the country’s baggage. We reacted positively to the call, and found a new way to make a living without adding to the Government’s burden. But today, in return for this, we have gotten no compensation at all, not even for closing the doors of our businesses permanently. We have to just leave.
Some of us have had our water and power summarily cut off, or faced groups of demolition workers, told only that they should break down our walls. Some of our roofs were demolished while there were elderly people and children still under them. These methods are odious, and have caused lasting emotional and economic distress. The Government has stated “Proper demolition should leave no one crying,” but now, more than one hundred business owners are living with both tears and blood.
Today, the water and power cut-off will be widespread. Tomorrow, there will be more stores facing mandatory eviction. We have nowhere to go. We can only depend on our Government. We are humans, made of flesh and blood, love and emotion – we cannot experience these events without any feeling or reaction. Negligible as we are, we are still our mother’s children, and have our legal rights. If we want to protect these rights, and our personal safety, we can only rely on the Government and the Party.
Today, we get down on our knees to beg the authorities to give us justice. We’re asking the mayor to give us an explanation. We believe that the Government will not be completely indifferent to our plight, and that justice will always prevail. We also deeply believe that our legal rights will be protected and supported under the law.
Today, our country’s children have tears in their eyes and hearts that are bleeding, asking their mother for an explanation, begging the city authorities to help us find a way to live.”
On our knees, the San Jian Fang Xiang
Small and Medium-Sized Business Owners
Translated from the Chinese by Zhao Ting Ting