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China: Hebei’s “Great Leap Forward”

More than 1000 residents of Hebei Province will be subject to forced evictions before June 5, in a government development project online opinion has dubbed a “Great Leap Forward.”

Guangping County, an impoverished area in southern Hebei, will see 2 billion yuan ($293 million) invested in new building and development in 2010, Southern Daily reports. The project, officially known as the “11168 Engineering Goal,” calls for the demolition of 330,000 square meters of housing and the eviction of more than 1000 of the county’s residents.

No concrete form of compensation has been drawn up for the evictees. In a semblance of transparency, or possibly confusion within the Guangping government, Southern Daily quotes a county development official as admitting “there have fundamentally been no eviction or relocation agreements made with the residents.”

Online opinion has called the plan another example on the growing list of illegal evictions in China. Some have likened the development project to the Great Leap Forward of 1958, a disastrous and ill-planned development scheme responsible for anywhere from 14 million to 43 million starvation deaths.

In a Southern Weekend editorial, Xiao Shu calls the plan a regretful yet common phenomenon. He says when it comes to land procurement, city governments and investors come out on top, while compensation to peasants only amount to 5–10 percent of the profits made off the land.

Xiao says the expenditure of 2 billion yuan in a county with an annual budget of 130 million yuan ($19 million) represents the wrong kind of development. “Development is my development. It has nothing to do with you. You must leave unconditionally,” he writes sarcastically.

The numbers have attracted attention online. Luo Shibin questions the financial logic of the plan in a blog entry:

为什么没签订补偿协议、没对群众进行妥善安置?这是很值得商榷的问题。广平县是个贫困县,而整个改造工程却是个大手笔,需要雄厚的财力才能支撑。但该县去年的财政收入仅1.3亿元,那么计划的20多亿元的改造资金从何而来?

Why didn’t they sign a compensation agreement or carry out proper relocation procedure for the people? This problem deserves discussion. Guangping County is a poor county and this whole engineering project is a masterpiece requiring hefty financial support. But the county’s revenue is only 130 million yuan. So where will the more than 2 billion yuan in funds come from?

In a blog entry, Dou Hao says that Guangping county has failed to learn from the mistakes of the past:

如果用“大跃进”这样的说法,来形容广平县正在大刀阔斧进行的拆迁工作,应该是名符其实的。可“大跃进”给国留下的是痛苦的记忆,还有深刻的教训。因为这种脱离实际的所谓发展,违背了客观规律,自然要被规律惩罚。奇怪的是,广平县怎么就犯上“好了伤疤忘了痛”的错误,继续着这种不合时宜的拆迁形象工程呢?

If you use the phrasing “Great Leap Forward” to describe Guangping County’s bold eviction work, the name would be suitable. The “Great Leap Forward” left the country with a painful memory and a deep lesson. Because this kind of development deviates from reality and violates objective rules, it should be punished according to the rules. What’s strange is Guangping County has made the mistake of “forgetting the pain after the wound has healed.” Will they continue these inopportune evictions and image engineering projects?

Gaoyuan-Zhixing writes in a blog entry that although they have disregarded the will of the people, these county-level officials are only answering to higher instruction from Handan City, the jurisdiction to which Guangping County belongs.

对于广平县的领导在不调查研究,不把群众利益放在工作的出发点上而盲目地迎合上级的意图,不顾及损害群众利益违的法行为我们不值得同情,而且非常愤恨。但,把所有的过错都怪罪于广平,所有板子都打在广平的屁股上倒是真有点怨,因为至少人家是在执行上级的命令啊,是在完成上级制定的目标任务啊,其实问题的根源不在广平,而在上级邯郸市。

As for the lack of investigation and research by the Guangping County officials, their failure to put the people’s well-being at the forefront of their work and blindly carrying out the will of higher officials, their thoughtless harming of the people and law-breaking behavior—it’s not worth sympathizing with and it’s very resentful. But putting all the blame on Guangping County, spanking them with every plank, is actually wrong. They are only carrying out orders from above. All of these tasks are determined by higher level [officials]. The origin of the problem actually isn’t Guangping County, but its superior, Handan City.

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