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Wednesday, July 17, 2002 

The Loser of Urban Redevelopment

The Loser of Urban Redevelopment

"I want to immigrate abroad," a dumpling shop owner told me last night. "For sure, we ordinary people now have freedom of speech. We can criticize the political leaders. But there is simply no protection of basic rights." By basic rights, he meant property rights.

Old buildings that are still standing today on Dongpo road will be demolished starting this September to make way for urban redevelopment. Mr. Li (fake name) is one of the many shop owners that are being affected.

"The government would compensate me RMB 1.2 million (USD 15,000). But I don't want the compensation. I just want to hold onto my shop."

"What am I to do after I fold my business? I am getting old and have a 80 year old father to support. I need the shop to earn a living. The compensation is too little. I could earn that sum of money easily in five years just by renting the floor space. Besides, it is only sufficient for me to buy another shop that is at least an hour away from the core of downtown. Then, I would not be able to see the West Lake so often."

"You see, in western countries, it would be much more difficult to force us out of our own properties without our consent."

"But here we ordinary folks have no choice but to accept whatever decisions that have been made by the government. And these decisions are often arbitrary."

"Consider yourself lucky if you get a compensation."

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