My 92-year-old grandmother’s house rests in one of the most convenient areas of Shanghai, as well as one of the most expensive. Each month, she pays a mere RMB77 to the government for her cozy French concession home near Xiangyang Park. Two years ago, a Western couple who wanted buy the house from the city for a temptingly high price nearly forced her and my grandfather to move from their home of almost 70 years. Thankfully, the deal was not completed.
My grandmother’s experience magnified my sympathy for the recent events of the “nail house” in Chongqing, which was a far worse situation. The condemned house, occupied by a man named Yang Wu, was destroyed Monday night after Yang had held out against plans for demolition as. Though the government called Yang’s protest a display of stubbornness and inflexibility, I view it as an act of bravery to protect personal rights. The actions of Yang and his wife, Wu Ping have attracted national and international attention, since local media have been forbidden to cover the story. Today, land seizures and people being dumped from their homes in the name of commercial development are commonplace in China. In this case, the Chongqing nail house represents a larger group of historical buildings to be destroyed in China within the next 50 years. This includes those who have been relocated during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in the past and also the destruction of more than half of Beijing’s hutongs to pave way for a green Olympics. The couple’s defiance gives hope for the many in David-and-Goliath battles for not only private property rights but also personal rights.