Ahead of Military World Games in Hubei Province’s capital Wuhan, the government is “beautifying” the city by destroying people’s homes and businesses.
by Cai Congxin
Every time the CCP holds a large-scale international event, it vigorously strives to uphold its image of “greatness and glory” in the eyes of the world. This year’s 7th Military World Summer Games is no exception. From October 18 to 27, Wuhan, the capital of the central province of Hubei, will host nearly 10,000 active-duty military personnel from over 100 countries.
As Bitter Winter has reported, in preparation for the Summer Games, Wuhan authorities have already closed down multiple places of worship. To create the illusion of affluence, municipal departments are joining forces in demolishing dilapidated buildings and destroying business operations that are considered “below standard.” Regardless that the buildings are homes to the poor or small businesses are the only source of income for many households.
Vegetable gardens deemed detrimental to China’s image
Residents of some housing communities on the way to Bafenshan, one of the venues for the Military Games in Wuhan’s Jiangxia district, used to grow vegetables on plots of lands that they had developed into gardens years ago.
For most of them, selling the product grown in the gardens was the only source of income. But with the Military World Games approaching, the government sacrificed their wellbeing for its vanity project. On July 3, over 100 personnel from eight government departments, led by the district’s Public Security Bureau, used an excavator to destroy 13 of these vegetable gardens. The officials claimed that since the gardens were along the railway route that foreigners will take during the Games, it was necessary to preserve China’s image.
The owners of the destroyed gardens calculated that the losses they had sustained amounted to more than 100,000 RMB (about $ 15,000). “They dug up all our vegetables and didn’t give us even a penny in compensation. How are we going to live from now on?” a woman in her 80s, who used to grow vegetables for a living, said with anger and sorrow.
On May 20, a large shed built by a village resident was also forcibly demolished, resulting in losses of around 40,000 RMB (about $ 5,590). The local authorities said that the shed was built illegally, it harmed the city’s appearance and the country’s image. The shed’s owner provided the documents, proving that she had bought the land and built the shed with government’s approval. But the officials only replied that all the land in China, and even its citizens, belong to the state.
“Since the Military World Games are going to be held here, the government just cares about the country’s image, not the people,” the woman said, not hiding her anger.
In May, a disabled man from Ezhou, a prefecture-level city 50 kilometers away from Wuhan, was selling watermelons on the roadside when urban management officers showed up and beat him up. Claiming that having disabled people selling watermelons during the Military Games is not good for the city’s image, the officers chased the man away.
Concealing poverty with walls
In late June, personnel from Caidian district government built a 3-meter-tall wall in front of some shops along one of the roads. According to a sanitation worker, this move by the government was aimed at concealing dilapidated houses from the eyes of foreigners.
With the wall obstructing their businesses, many merchants have lost customers and are unable to sustain a living. Eight of them were forced to close down their shops. Other shopkeepers haven’t found a suitable place to move, so all they can do is sit helplessly in their deserted shops.
“We’re suppressing our anger and don’t dare to speak out. In its effort to ‘conceal poverty,’ the government completely disregards the wellbeing of the people. If this continues, how are we going to survive?” one shopkeeper said helplessly. “The government is cutting off people’s means of subsistence.”
To “beautify” the city, the government also ordered to demolish the decayed houses rented to low-income people in the vicinity of the Military World Games Stadium in Wuhan. The ruins of the destroyed buildings were hidden behind the newly-constructed roadside walls, covered with artificial turf.
A former tenant in one of the buildings told Bitter Winter that he could afford rent only in these subsidized houses. “Now that they have been demolished, where will I go to find a home?” the tenant said with sadness. “The state neglects the needs of people for the sake of its prestige. Why don’t they spend the money used for the roadside walls to do something for the people?”
Signboards and LED displays ordered to be removed
In May, the Urban Management Bureau of Wuhan’s Jiangxia district removed signboards from all businesses under the pretext of “creating the city’s image.” The move has resulted in substantial financial losses for the owners.
In early June, urban management officers from Yangluo Development Zone ordered merchants to remove their LED displays to prevent “lawbreakers” from posting reactionary slogans and creating chaos. Those who voiced discontent were threatened with fines.
“The loss of LED displays will certainly affect our business. If we don’t remove them ourselves, urban management personnel will ruin the displays by forcibly dismantling them,” one local proprietor said, expressing the sadness and disappointment felt by all business owners in the area.
The owner of a hotel who was among the victims of the forceful removal said that his LED display was worth 30,000 RMB (about $ 4,190). “It has become scrap now,” he lamented, adding that the hotel’s signboard had also been forcibly removed. “As soon as they said it must be dismantled, it was dismantled.”
The owner recalled that some time ago, in response to President Xi Jinping’s appeal, local authorities ordered him to have patriotic slogans, like “The motherland is rich and powerful” or “The Chinese Dream,” scrolling on his LED display at all times. “Now, the government says that with the Military World Games coming, the ‘environment must be purified,’ so LED screens must be torn down. There is nothing we can do. The weak can’t defeat the strong.”