End of story for historical Guangzhou community as nail house standoff is defused

If you were a mid-level bureaucrat in charge of land use planning for the city, and completion of a new housing project was being held up by one remaining resident of substandard housing where his community used to be, would you send in the bulldozers or keep raising your buyout offer until it matches his?

Guanghzou has had its share of nail houses over the past decade, from ‘mass incidents’ in Huangpu to elderly men threatening to turn suicide bomber in Liwan. There was another showdown this week as the evacuation deadline arrived for Mr. Yao (left), the single last resident of what used to be Xiong township, Yangji village, in Guangzhou’s Yuexiu district.

After ten hours, the standoff between Yao and authorities ended quietly at just before noon on Tuesday after more than two hours of negotiations held on the roof of Yao’s house. A compensation agreement was signed, Yao’s protest banners were taken down from the side of the house, and all his belongings were hauled into a moving truck waiting nearby. Hope he got a good deal, see more photos from and a play-by-play of Tuesday morning here.

It was noted, incidentally, that pissed-off former neighbors of Yao’s put about as much pressure on him as authorities did. Many have been renting in the year since they left their properties last summer when demolition began, and are anxious to see the new home they receive as part of the compensation package. A number of the more elderly former residents have also passed away in the meantime.

And, this was not just your typical developer vs. refusenik story, but rather one of Guangzhou’s few remaining chengzhongcuns: neighborhoods in the city considered by many to be living testaments to its heritage as well as homes to the diverse communities which give Guangzhou character and its accommodating reputation.

Preservation of these communities is also a cause which local media have strongly taken to over the past few years, but the only promise city hall has made is to leave the urban village in Shipai more or less as it is now. Most of the other inner-city villages in Guangzhou are already gone.

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6 Responses to End of story for historical Guangzhou community as nail house standoff is defused

  1. Adam says:

    Actually one detail here is not quite accurate. Yao Run-Zhen and his wife were not the last remaining residents here. There are still a handful remaining and they will fight just as Yao did before they leave. I was there on the day Yao left his home and not outside the barricaded area the press had to wait outside for all but the last 15 mins of the saga. Some of the events that really took place could not be published here.

    • Adam says:

      Oh, now I’ve taken a look at other Nanfang articles I can see that more details would be acceptable…

      Basically many of the other remaining residents were trying to film the process to make sure if anything went down, they’d have it on film. Those that were spotted by the police were confronted, their cams taken and they were carried off out of sight (I have photos). Last I spoke with the locals (the OTHERS that have not yet given up the fight and moved out), they could not contact Yao and are worried about his and his wife’s safety, as the last thing they heard they had been taken into police custody.

      • feng37 says:

        Interesting and worrisome. I’ll keep an eye out for any further local news coverage from the village, as it looks now that this is in a way just the beginning and not ‘end of story.’

        • Adam says:

          I’ll keep you up to date if you like. The remaining residents will contact me if they know of anything about to go down. I can also share photos with you for the site if you’d like (some have been uploaded to my Flickr account: yanglong7).

          I’m also keeping an eye on what’s going on in Xiancun which is also currently being threatened, although it’s looking like enough locals have banded together to keep the developers at bay.

  2. feng37 says:

    Hi Adam, thanks for bringing that up. I just went back to some of the local media reports linked to here, I definitely did miss this important part of the story. From what I gather, there are actually 17 more ‘nail houses’ remaining, which explains Milkpig’s photo at the bottom.

    What else did we miss? I saw on one overseas website that people from the village gathered more than a dozen gas canisters and threatened to immolate themselves. Very glad that nobody did.

  3. feng37 says:

    Trying to contain the monster that is Zhujiang new city, good for them. Please do let me know of any developments there or in Xiancun, either here or by e-mail (‘[email protected]’ instead of ‘[email protected]’ also works).

    Incidentally, you’ve just reminded me of this blog, the author of which was in Guangzhou a few years ago, but to explore underground economies, not makeshift housing, in the PRD.

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