In the topsy-turvy world that Communist China is becoming, Up is Down, False is True, and Poverty can be solved by destroying the possessions of the poor.
It seems like everything is backward in today’s China. The latest example would be comical if it were not such a tragedy for those directly affected: to create the appearance of “poverty alleviation,” authorities are demolishing the homes of impoverished elderly people.
Ms. Zhao, a woman in her seventies who lives in a village in Huaiyang county, in Henan province in central China, experienced this brutal poverty alleviation firsthand. She was returning to her home on her tricycle, only to find that her house had turned into a pile of ruins.
Prior to this, government personnel from the local Poverty Alleviation Office had demanded that Ms. Zhao leave her house and move in with her son. Ms. Zhao worried that it was easy to slip and fall on the tile floor of her son’s home, so she was unwilling to move. She didn’t expect the government to demolish her house while she was away.
According to eyewitnesses, government officials at the demolition site stated, “Demolish it first. Just ask her to live with her son.”
Bitter Winter previously reported about the sealing-off of housing for impoverished elderly people in Huaiyang, which is designated by the state as a poverty-stricken county. To achieve the goal of total poverty elimination by 2019, government personnel have forced impoverished elderly people to live with their children. This new living arrangement would “eliminate” poverty because combining poor old people’s income with that of their children will eliminate “impoverished households.” This policy even has a special name: the policy of “elderly households eating together, living together, and sharing a household.”
Mr. Liu and his wife from Huaiyang county, also “benefitted” from poverty alleviation by losing everything they had. Their house had been first sealed and later torn down. They didn’t even have time to move the supplies out of their kitchen. That is very quick poverty reduction.
In December 2018, similar forced demolition incidents occurred in every village in Huaiyang county.
Local villagers are distraught by the government’s operation. “The Spring Festival is coming soon, yet the government demolishes elderly people’s homes. How are they supposed to celebrate the festival? When their children and grandchildren come to visit, there will be no place for them to stay!”
Some of what appears to be driving the demolition movement is the desire on the part of local bureaucrats to look good in front of their superiors. In preparation for inspections by higher authorities, local officials demolished some houses simply for looking old and shabby.
In December, officials in a village in Huaiyang county brought in an excavator to demolish the house in which an octogenarian named Wang lived alone.
A government official told Mr. Wang, “We need to tear down your house. It is next to the village office. Keeping such a shabby house is embarrassing us. When the higher authorities come for an inspection, they always pass through here. If they see you living in such a house, all of us will be out of a job.”
Another poor older woman, the 64-year old Ms. Xie, had no choice but to personally tear down her own house. When the demolition workers hired by the government arrived to demolish her house, they asked her to pay their wages. Unfortunately, Ms. Xie’s income from farming is not enough to cover her own personal expenses. She is so frugal that she rarely buys groceries.
“I wanted to demolish it myself so that I could keep some tiles. Perhaps I will still have a chance to use them when building a house in the future,” said Ms. Xie.
On December 13, Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council’s Office of Poverty Alleviation, announced at a State Council Information Office meeting that 300 poverty-stricken counties will be “rehabilitated” in 2019.
Huaiyang county has suffered greatly for the cause of poverty alleviation. An additional 300 counties rehabilitated under the perverse logic of the Chinese Communist Party can only mean thousands of homes destroyed, and millions in value taken from poor people. For their own good, of course.
Reported by Li Pei
(All names used in the article are pseudonyms.)