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Villages # 16 and #17 Liulangzhuang and Tangjialing

Villages #16 and #17 are Liulangzhuang and Tangjialing. These villages received attention from the media as places where recent college graduates in search of tech jobs (the “ant tribe”) came to rent rooms, because of their proximity to Beijing’s silicon valley Zhongguancun. Instead of being part of the story of migrant workers coming to the capital to perform unskilled labor, these two villages were instead part of analysis about the ever-rising housing market in Beijing, and what the future looked like for the brightest of China’s youth as they entered the job market. Nevertheless, when these villages were demolished, it was the original residents, the peasants, who had the most to lose.

Liulangzhuang 六郎庄村

Haidian district, Wanliu area 海淀区万柳地区



I previously covered Liulangzhuang in a series of posts September–December 2013.

Tangjialing 唐家岭村

Haidian district,Xibeiwang town 海淀区西北旺镇



photo (waiting for the bus in the morning):


I previously covered Tangjialing in a series of posts in March and April 2013.

Village #15 Mentou


Village#15 is Mentou village (shequ), Shijiqing township, Haidian district


I could not find any article laying out the relocation and compensation plan for Mentou village. That in itself might indicate there were irregularities. From the beginning,  there was resistance from some villagers. In 2009 one villager, Yang Jun, set himself on fire to try to prevent the demolition of his house. Villagers who refused to sign contracts were subjected to violence in 2011 and 2013, which seems to indicate that resistance was deep enough to delay the process by several years. One clue to the dispute is the following: “The location… is part of area designated to be turned into a green zone by the township government. However the township government and the Mentou village committee have secretly colluded to sell the land to a developer, to build commercial housing. Many villagers are resentful of both the government and the developer, and have refused to sign contracts or negotiate compensation with the developer.”  In addition, the developer and the village committee were perhaps in collusion with each other to extract profits from what had originally been village collective land. Mentou village may be a case in which the Beijing city concept, to expand the green zone and give generous compensation to the villagers, is altered by the township and other local entities for their own interests. The Beijing city government would prefer that incidents of self-incineration did not happen. But the local governments may be more relentless in pursuing their own financial motives. This conflict can be seen in the way a villager supports the city-wide urban transformation but pleads for “equitable compensation” from the township, and in the way the local police sub-station and the Beijing City Corruption Squad struggle over jurisdiction in the Yang Jun case.

The following article is mainly about the construction workers building the replacement housing on the village site after demolition, therefore I have only translated the introductory paragraphs.

A record of the demolition of Mentou village

The demolition and relocation of residents of Mentou village, an ordinary village in the western suburbs of Beijing, is just one minor event in the overall development of the city, a mere drop in the ocean. But starting in 2013-09, the reporter Yang Lang spent one year photographing and taking notes, to produce a sociological record of the transformation of the village. As we peer into the process of urbanization, we see an one fragmentary sample of how urbanization swallows up a formerly rural area…

Yang Lang, who happened to live close by in Xishan, used his cell phone to record the demolition of buildings in the village and the arrival of construction workers to built replacement housing. He documented the construction process all the way through, up to the village residents viewing the completed structures.  During this time, he spent a lot of time with the construction workers, sharing their joys and disappointments, carefully observing the social milieu that grew up on the periphery of the construction site. During the 2014 New Year’s holiday, he brought food and liquor to the workers that had to remain behind to guard the construction site, and they stayed up all night on New Year’s Eve. His cell phone photographs were presented in an exhibition, “Your Sweat,  Our Homes.”

Mentou village is in West Haidian.  In the 16th century “Streets and Alleys in the Capitol’s Five Districts”  the name “Mentou village” appears. “Since it is the gateway to Xishan[Western Hills], it is called the ”first gate.” [men, gate, tou, head, first].The name appears in Ming and Qing, [other citations omitted] and the name hasn’t changed in the People’s Republic.

To the north of Mentou is the Tuancheng Fortress, built in the Qianlong reign period (1736-1795) of the Ching, an important historical monument.. The troops who went on to defeat the Jinchuan minority in Sichuan trained here [1747-1749, 1771-1776]. In 1964, the renowned literary artist Lao She lived at no. 39 in Mentou while gathering source material, despite being of an advanced age. [Lao She, 1899-1966]. He wrote a poem praising Mentou as a place where “ the fountainhead of literature and art flows out.” 

konjaku: .Although some of Yang Lang photos are reproduced, I can’t find Yang Lang’s photo of “the village residents viewing the completed structures.”

photos: Mentor village with protest posters, the construction workers

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The following description of the Yang Jun incident is a section of a longer article in Caixin about activists who resisted forcible demolition.


Yang Jun, a resident of Mentou village in Shijiqing town Haidian district, received three years in prison for injuring a police official while resisting the forcible demolition of his house. This year (2012), after being released from prison on 08-13, he met many times with the relevant government department to negotiate a compensation settlement. On 09-05 Yang Jun was attacked and beaten by unknown persons. Despite medical assistance, he died on 09-14. The Beijing city police have opened an investigation.

In order to prevent the developers from demolishing his home, on 2009-08 Yang Jun splashed gasoline in the direction of the  demolition personnel and ignited the fuel, burning himself and one judicial policeman. Soon afterwards, he was sentenced in court to a prison term of three years. His fiancee Li Rong at the same time received a sentence of 8 months. While the two were in prison. Yang Jun’s house was demolished.

Apparently the Jingxiang Weiye Development Company, which had the contract for demolishing Mentou and constructing the Mentou New Village, and which was involved in the demolition of Yang Jun’s home, is very closely linked to the Mentou village committee. The Mentou party branch secretary Liu Jixiang and the Menyou demolition director Ren Baowang both hold positions in the Jingxiang Weiye Company. 

When Yang Jun was released from prison on 08-13 at 10 o’clock at night, he had no home to go to. A policeman from the Xiangshan sub-station, Zheng Baoguo, arranged for him to stay at a hotel and baths establishment, called the Zhulian Hotel, in a room next to the baths. According to a village resident, the hotel was actually owned by the Mentou village committee. Yang Jun’s fiancee said that after they began to live at the hotel, the policeman Zheng Baoguo stayed in the room next to theirs, “he said it was for our safety.” These facts have been confirmed by the hotel.

Since Yang Jun and his fiancee were not in a condition to negotiate a compensation agreement while in prison, as soon as he got out, he began to rush about. An employee at the Zhulian Baths said that he frequently went to meetings with his body draped in the Chinese flag.

According to evidence provided by a Mentou villager, on 08-28 Yang Jun went to the Xiangshan neighborhood office to  meet police from the  Xiangshan sub-station, a Sijiqing town legal staff member, and Mentou village committee personnel, to negotiate a solution to the compensation problem. The first issue Yang Jun raised was the problem of his living situation after his release from prison. “At least give us a more standard place to live, the room next to the baths is very damp.” During the course of the meeting, Yang Jun became quite stirred up, and in the end no progress was made.

On 09-04, Yang Jun, once again draped in a Chinese flag, went to the Jingxiang Weiye company  office to carry out a protest. The member of the police in charge of protecting him, Zheng Baoguo, left before the meeting was over. A Mentou villager, Mr Jin, said the two sides parted on bad terms. “The company representative was impatient, and said it was time to teach Yang Jun a lesson [beat him up].”

On 09-05,  the policeman Zheng Baoguo went away from Yang Jun and his fiancee, saying “I am busy today.” That evening after dinner, Yang Jun was at the entrance of the Zhulian Hotel baths, when six unidentified men grabbed him and beat with clubs. Then he was taken to Jishuitan Hospital for treatment.

Yang Jun’s fiancee Li Rong said,  at 7:10 that night she and Yang Jun were taking a walk in the parking lot near the hotel baths. when suddenly men carrying iron clubs accosted them and began hitting Yang Jun on his legs. She said since she was focused on trying to help Yang Jun, so she doesn’t remember the faces or appearance of the men, beyond that there were six or seven of them. During the struggle, both Yang Jun’s legs were cut badly, and lots of blood was flowing, and Li Rong was injured on the calf of one leg. They were beaten for several minutes, until Yang Jun was no longer able to stand up.

Li Rong said a passerby saw what was happening and called for help, but the group threatened him, and he ran away. Li Rong said, “They were extremely ruthless, beating a man as though to cause him to be permanently handicapped.”

The hotel baths manager said he was on duty at the time, but he did not see what was going on outside. At about 7:30 Li Rong rushed in, dragging her bloody leg,  and shouted, “Yang Jun has been attacked,” and asked to borrow a phone. She called 110, and the manager called the Xiangshan police sub-station. The manager then went outside and found Yang Jun lying in the parking lot, both legs badly wounded.  Soon afterwards the police came with an ambulance, which took him to Jishuitan Hospital [a large hospital in central Beijing] .

After receiving treatment there,, on 09-06 he was transferred to the De’erkangni orthopedic hospital in the 4th ring. Li Rong was admitted to the same hospital for her injuries.

A Mentou villager Mr. Sui said, he received a phone call from Yang Jun when he was in the  Jishuitan Hospital,  to let people know about his injuries. He said that he was already better, but he was worried about what might happen next. Then, fifteen days later,  Mr Sui heard that his good friend Yang Jun had died on 09-14.  He immediately went to the hospital to find out what had happened,  but the hospital entrance was guarded by police who refused to let him in.

The  De’erkangni hospital director said, because the matter was a criminal case, the hospital needed to ask for instructions from the Haidian Public Security department before answering any questions. Up till yesterday evening, as this story was going to press, they had not yet answered.

The day before yesterday, this reporter went to visit De’erkangni hospital. On the second floor inpatient ward, there were two guards on duty, blocking off all the passageways. Only after making a request to public security, was I allowed to enter. I followed along behind a patient who was being wheeled to the lunch room, but my presence was soon discovered by an on-duty nurse. The nurse said if I wanted to visit Li Rong,  I needed to get consent from the police unit assigned to the hospital. After several minutes, a plain-clothes policeman hurried up and denied my request for a visit. He said he was from the Xiangshan sub-station. After Yang Jun had been assaulted and died, Li Rong had been under 24 hour guard, and no one was allowed to see her without the consent of the Haidian district police.

Li Rong made statements previous to this, that  after being transferred to the De’erkangni orthopedic hospital, that she was under constant police guard “for her own protection.” Even when she went to the bathroom, a police officer followed her. “I came to realize I was under house arrest. I was not allowed to go out, not allowed to make a telephone call.” If she wanted to contact a reporter, she had to do it secretly, hiding her action from the police.

Apparently the case was in the hands of the Xiangshan police sub-station, but the Haidian district station began an investigation into what happened. When Yang Jun died, the Beijing City Corruption Squad took over. 

When the Beijing City squad came to De’erkangni hospital to interview Li Rong,  even though they were from the city government, the Xiangshan police would not let them in until they had contacted their superiors. The Xianghan policemen then refused to let the officers from the city squad take Li Rong away for questioning. 

According to Li Rong’s previous statements, after Yang Jun was attacked she was always with him, together at the same hospital. Before he died, they chatted together everyday, and he seemed to be recovering normally.

On the morning of 09-13, the hospital states that Yang Jun underwent an operation to remove steel plate from his leg [see note below]. But at 8 in the evening, this operation was still going on. A little after 9, Yang Jun was brought back to his hospital room. Li Rong has stated, that at that time his face was pale, his lips were blue, and he had fallen into a coma. Several doctors rushed in to try and save him.  On 09-14 the hospital stated that Yang Jun had died because of a mishap during surgery, but it has not yet released the cause of death.

After Yang Jun was assaulted, the police investigated and eventually arrested several suspects. According to a Mentou villager, these included several employees of the Jingxiang Weiye Development Company, the Mentou village Secretary Liu Jitang and the Demolition Director Zuo Baowang. This villager said that after the Beijing City Corruption Squad entered the investigation, a friend of his in city government said they are investigating links between local officials, the real estate company,  and underground gangsters.

The Jingxiang Weiye Development Company and the Mentor village committee share the same office. When this reporter went there a woman staff member said she did not know about the assault of Yang Jun. She said Mentou village Secretary Liu Jitang and Demolition Director Zuo Baowang were both away on business trips and she did not know when they would return, and she did not have any phone numbers to contact them. 

Neither the Beijing City police or the Haidian public security office would make any comment, saying the case was still under investigation.

Note: if Yang Jun had steel plate put into his leg to fix broken bones, it is hard to imagine why there would be a need to remove the plate so soon after it was put in, unless something went wrong in the first operation.

konjaku: now we move to the incidents in 2011:

The developer’s broad ax demolishes Mentou village– an on-the-spot report!


Recently, in order to make us move away, the developer has used a series of illicit methods to harass us and obstruct our daily lives. In continuous attacks over just ten days, the despicable actions they have carried out are:

First attack: dig ditches and release water. On 03-23 the developer sent workers with excavators to dig ditches all around our houses. These ditches they flooded with water, putting our houses in danger. This action was illegal, not covered in the construction permit, an action whose purpose was only to harass the residents.


Second attack: cut off water and electricity to residents.  On 03-24 employees of the developer used excavators to expose and damage the pipes of the village water supply. They also dug around the foundations of buildings to cut off the electricity. Once we discovered this activity we were able to stand in the way and to obstruct their progress, thus they could not completely carry out their purpose. Those who act illegally like gangsters will continue to be gangsters, and they have since then tried multiple times to succeed in cutting off our utilities.

Third attack: obstructing traffic. On 03-29 at about one in the morning, the developer had trucks unload the garbage from the construction site in front of houses, blocking up the roads. We had no choice to seek help from the police, and the city management department has already promised to move the garbage away (but up to now they have not done anything). These gangsters cause trouble for city management, for the garbage to be moved by one party and then transported again by another, must be to increase the GDP. We hope rather that the police will exhibit the spirit of duty in the service of the taxpayers, and swiftly bring to justice those who commit illegal acts. If not, it will be hard not to suspect them of collusion!


The developers have already brandished their three-sided broad ax. Who will next appear on the scene. What will be the next act of this play? We can only wait and see.

We continue to wonder when City Management will carry out their promise and remove the garbage.  If they remove it in a timely manner, that will at least show they are not in collusion with the developer. 


If the Haidian police cannot solve such a simple case and arrest the unlawful perpetrators,  they will lose face, big time.  Everyone says that Public Security is in cahoots with the developer. We will crack the case ourselves and let everyone see that they are in collusion.

The crime of destroying property


In Haidian district Mentou village,  the  curtain on the next act of the play has opened. First there was the developer’s three-sided broadax–now it is a new method of attack — smashing cars.

Yesrerday night hoodlums came with the hatchets and stones, and smashed the windows of the Zhanjiang family car. They damaged the trunk and left an ax sitting on top of it as a calling card. The Zhanjiang family this morning reported the incident to the police, and requested that the police do their duty and safeguard the property of citizens.

The Zhanjiang house, slated for demolition, encounters a surprise attack in the middle of the night

2011-04-26, before dawn, Mentou village resident Zhanjiang was beaten by attackers. He says the developer is using underworld criminals to force residents to move out of their homes. 

Sometime after one at night, six or seven thugs suddenly appeared. They carried hatchets, steel rods, or other weapons. As soon as they arrived they struck at the windows of the house, and smashed the family car. When Zhanjiang went out to confront him they beat him severely, resulting in injuries to face, torso and legs. Before going outside Zhanjiang had called the police. They arrived after he had been attacked, and took him to the hospital, but did nothing more after that.



The Zhanjiang house is slated to be demolished by the Jingxiang weiye real estate company,  whose legal representative is Yan Chunrong. The location on which the house sits is part of an area designated to be turned into a green zone by the township government. However the township government and the Mentou village committee have secretly colluded to sell the land to a developer, to build commercial housing. Many villagers are resentful to both the government and the developer, and have refused to sign contracts or negotiate compensation with the developer. This situation has led to violent incidents initiated by the developer, to which the government is turning a blind eye. 

konjaku:after this Zhanjiang became a candidate for a seat on the village committee. He issued the following statement.

Why are the village affairs not being made public? Is it possible there is something rotten they are trying to hide from view?

1. [Summary of legal status of village land from the 1958 People’s Commune on]. The Shijiqing township corporation has no authority to sell or transfer possession of the village land.

2. The Mentou village committee has colluded with the developer and the township government, to seize farmland, orchards, and forest land which the villagers depend on for their livelihood. They have submitted an application to the city to turn ten acres of this land into a park, but they are actually using another 400 acres to construct a golf course, the Beijing Xiangshan International Golf Club.

3. As the State Council has clearly stated: cultivated land is to be preserved, it is not permitted to construct residences or villas on it. The village committee and the Shijiqing township government have offered 750 acres of village farmland for sale, and they have built 300 villas with an asking prices of 100,000 yuan, the Xiangshan Qingqin Villas. Offering the land for sale was not discussed at a meeting of all the villagers, and the villagers did not get any proceeds from the sale. 

4. In 2005, sections of Mentou village were demolished and the residents relocated, in order to fulfill the city-level plan of creating a separate green zone. According to the plan, replacement housing would be built, and offered to the villagers at a reduced cost. The village committee and township government announced the price would be 1548 yuan per square meter, but when the buildings were completed, they hatched a swindle and raised the price to 3600 yuan, deceiving the villagers.

5. In this 2005 project, the villagers were supposed to get replacement residences calculated at 75 square meters per person, but they only received 50.

6. In the 2005 project, the replacement housing was built on land to which rights of use were obtained, but in the current replacement housing being built, the legal approvals and standard procedures have not been followed. The villas being built are illegal, non-conforming buildings.

7. The village committee has not followed the requirements of the construction department in providing, within 90 days after residents move in, the appropriate ratified certificates for land use,  rights of title, house and buildings operation manual,  and guarantee of service quality. This is a violation of real estate law.

8. Information on village undertakings has not been released to the public. Amount of money spent on food and drink, amount of money to purchase cars, amount of money spent on trips: the village committee should make all these figures public to avoid misunderstandings.

9 The village committee should follow legal stipulations in the management of village collective land. When this land is levied or occupied, rented out, or transferred,  they should convene a village assembly and solicit the villager’s opinions. Those so-called “village representatives” should not have the last word.

10. The village committee should set up an internet message board and a site for people to express their opinions. Village affairs should be made public through broadcasts, closed-circuit tv, and publications. After people are made aware of village matters, the village committee should make an effort to listen to the opinions of the many. They should be receptive to inquiries, and make an effort to provide complete answers.  The People’s Proctor should check and examine all financial expenditures. This will preserve the autonomy and rights of the villagers under the law.维权网-选举观察工作室简报(之十四)

“Rights protection” independent candidate Zhangjiang, from Haidian district Mentou village,  was being watched by police for the duration of the time period of “6-4”  [Tiananmen square anniversary]. His every move was being shadowed. When he went out, the police followed right next to him. This situation went on until 06-06. On 06-05 when  he went to vote in the village election as a candidate for the village committee, the police stayed right on him the whole time, making this an interesting tableau of Chinese democracy. 

Zhanjiang said the villagers were not very enthusiastic about the election. Many abstained from voting, many sent just one person from their household to vote for all of them. At the voting place,  election staff members supervised the choices of the voters,  often filling in their election ballot in their place, in order to vote for themselves [as candidates for the village committee].

photos: Mentor village replacement housing (1), the villas constructed for sale (2)




konjaku: finally, there is this incident from 2013. The Jin family may have been one of the last hold-outs, since construction of replacement housing began in 2013-09. However, one source says demolition of the village was in 2014-02.

A victim of demolition, Jin Riliang,  while defending his house was arrested on the charge of “trying to pick a quarrel”

This incident began at around 8 o’clock in the morning on 09-07-2013 at Mentou village. A number of men arrived in front of the house of Jin driving a small excavator, and an altercation developed. From the previous four years there had been an ongoing dispute over whether the land was owned by the Jin family, or was a part of village collective land, and what amount of compensation the Jin family would be able to receive, and they had made multiple appeals to avoid the demolition.

Because of the dispute regarding demolition, the Jin family had tried to protect their house by surrounding it with iron mesh netting. Jin Riliang said that on the morning in question he suddenly heard an unusual noise and rushed outside. “ I saw several men dressed in black and wearing steel helmets. They had already cut apart the mesh and were entering our courtyard. Jin Riliang stated that there were at least fifty of these men, whom he had never seen before.

By 3 o’clock in the afternoon the wire mesh had been removed and a cordon of police were blocking off the area. The excavator was right in front of the Jin family house, its engine roaring. 

“There was nothing else I could do but run up to the attic of the house. The excavator’s arm was already aimed at the outer wall of our house. I warned them not to go further.” Jin Riliang then picked up pieces of roof tile and threw them at the excavator and at the men below.

Videotape taken by the Jin family confirms his story. The video shows pieces of roof tile raining down on the excavator’s glass windshield, then on the men in the courtyard, who protected themselves with metal screens.

Videotape taken by a villager shows that also present were several  plainclothes men who are members of the village committee, including the Mentou village party branch secretary.

konjaku: statement from a blog. I was unable to access this site directly.

Respected elders and fellow villagers: I believe that all of us support the transformation of old villages, and we support the Beijing city urbanization construction project. At the same time we strongly believe the process should be lawful, with the final plan determined by negotiation and subject to a vote by the villagers. The plan should give us villagers an equitable compensation amount. How is an equitable and lawful compensation to be arrived at? It should be according to the “Land Management Law of the People’s Republic of China” (1986, rev. 2004), under which our land is treated as collectively owned (by the villagers).

konjaku: the Land Management Law does require agreement by “two-thirds of the members of the village assembly.”

Within the duration of the contract for operation of land, any appropriate readjustment of the land between individual contractors shall be made with the agreement of at least two-thirds of the members of the villagers assembly or of the representatives of villagers and the matter shall be submitted to the township (town) people’s government and the agriculture administration department of the people’s government at the county level for approval.

Land owned by peasant collectives shall be operated under a contract by units or individuals that do not belong to the economic organizations of the said collectives, with the agreement of at least two-thirds of the members of the villagers assembly or of the representatives of villagers, and the matter shall be submitted to the township (town) people’s government for approval.

Danke Apartments: an alternative for college graduates

konjaku: urban villages function as entry-points for people flooding into Beijing. Villagers for whom farming is no longer viable put up illegal buildings, and make a good income renting cheap rooms. When villages are demolished as part of the urban-rural unification plan undertaken by Beijing city, the need for cheap rentals does not disappear. As we saw in Xiaojiahe, a mix of ex-villagers, squatters, and entrepreneurs continue to put up illegal buildings wherever they can in the surrounding area, and college graduates will rent a small bare room in a simple building put up in a vegetable field, as long as it provides the bare essentials for living and there is mass transportation to reach their place of employment. The landscape of this next phase of the urban village, a quasi-village without any history or boundaries, is a place in which “the road is only wide enough for one car to pass at a time, and on both sides between the low-lying houses, narrow alleys like capillaries wind off into the distance.” If the local town government is unwilling or unable to allocate money to destroying the illegal buildings on land which is not part of some grander development plan, an improvised urban fabric continues to exist.

The replacement housing for Xiaojiahe villagers is a nice new residential complex, built conveniently over the new Nongdananlu subway station, called Xiaojiahe New Village. It also includes some buildings managed by Danke Apartments (dànké, “eggshell). “If you are a 2017 college graduate, you can participate in the Danke Apartments Starling Plan and get 1000 yuan in credits.”

Danke Apartments may represent an attempt by the market to offer an alternative in affordable housing that will lessen the demand filled by urban villages or unmanaged spaces — but only for college graduates and white-collar workers.Their promotional blurbs, in which the word “white-collar” appears frequently, make it clear who may apply. Danke Apartments does not own property, but it finds apartment buildings it can furnish, maintain, and rent — to college graduates and white-collar clients. The rental market in China is unstable, with distrust on both sides. Property owners do not trust tenants, therefore they demand at least three months rent in advance. Tenants worry about false advertising, slippery contracts, and being saddled with debt. The challenge for Danke Apartments and companies like it is to rationalize the housing market. They offer a “one month deposit, one month’s rent in advance” contract (although there is a catch, as we will see) to encourage those who cannot scrape together the larger “traditional” advance. Also, they find roommates for tenants, allowing them to group single persons in larger apartments, and presumably that also helps people live in larger, nicer spaces for less money.

This is Danke apartments advertisement of its Starling Plan for 2017

The plan:
When you sign a contract for one year, after 6 months you can switch one time free of charge to another Danke apartment anywhere in the country
Refund of 1000 yuan: on every months rent, we put aside 125 yuan to you as credit, at the end of 8 months, the full amount is eligible to be returned ([1000 yuan, $159]. After one more month has passed, within three working days we give you the full amount. At that point the earned credit agreement is complete.

Eligible persons: any person who graduated from college in 2017 (full time students, from undergraduate or graduate course of studies)

This offer ends 2017-07-15.
For those who change apartments during the period of earned credits, including switching free of charge, the earned credit plan will be terminated.

The tenant must have a WeChat account that is tied to a bank account passbook number, otherwise it is illegal to return the credit as payment.

In applying for this offer, the applicant must present a genuine student card. If on re-examination this card is found to be a forgery, we will revoke the credit offer and nullify the free-switching offer.

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“You’d better rent a nice space to start practicing your Beijing accent.”

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“A good apartment in the Shanghai alleyways will up your “face value” [social status]”

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“During the day enjoy Hong Kong and Macao– at night, sleep in Danke apartments in Shenzhen”

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“A young woman from Chengdu: good things happen to good people.

After graduating, she lived with her boyfriend in a Danke apartment, and the starling plan really lessened their financial burden. Their room had a balcony on which they could practice yoga or chit-chat with other people, making their life in Beijing rich with possibilities.”

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“The first thing this very smart woman did after graduating from Peking University was to rent a Danke apartment.
A Danke apartment is perhaps not perfect in every way, but she says that for a recent graduate it is entirely appropriate, and she is satisfied with her apartment. She is pleased with the process of renting, the care and service she received as a potential customer. She is happy with the room’s lay-out and the ingenuity of the person who designed the room. She is gratified by the thoroughness of the cleaning ayi [cleaning women], and even more, she is glad to receive credits on her rent.”

konjaku: Danke Apartments offers a special status to those “very smart” millennials,who have graduated from a Beijing University. People who have moved to the capital from elsewhere might expect to be disparaged as outsiders, but here, since they are college graduates, they are the target of an ad campaign and given special treatment. As a graduate, it is good to be a young woman from Chengdu who lives with her boyfriend (Danke makes it possible for them to share the rent), is acquiring a Beijing accent, and does yoga on her balcony. She can benefit from the savings of 1000 yuan now, but in the future she may enter a prestigious field — high-tech or media –and rise far. The next promotional article makes it more explicit that Danke Apartments attracts the young highly-educated elite — one of whom will be your roommate.

konjaku: this article refers to the first year the starling plan was offered, 2016

Danke Apartments Starling Plan comes back for a surprise second attack!

2400 people has applied for the starling plan, from 2016 -05-25 up to now (06-28), and 1412 of their fellow students have gotten apartments. Danke apartments has shown a praiseworthy concern and a sense of social duty for these recent graduates and their urgent need for housing.
Starting 07-01 they will do a “second launch” of the plan, and respectfully invite all of this year’s graduates who have not yet found housing to apply.

In the first launch of the starling plan, Beijing college and university students were “favorably positioned,” and managed to snag 40 percent of the openings. Those with M.A. degrees or above got 25 percent of the slots. And among successful applicants, there was no shortage of students who had studied overseas. In other words, the cream of the crop. In former times a wise mother would pack up and move anywhere to put her child in the best environment for his or her education. Today, there is Danke Apartments. If you live there, your neighbors will be “scholar-tyrants” [superb students], associating with those of such excellent character, their best qualities will rub off on you.

The tenants who have flocked to Danke Apartments represent the highest level of those going into all the different professions: languages, design, economics, computer hardware and software, the media. Your roommate may be a future t.v. star, or perhaps an influential authority on the internet, or a “language emperor” who can speak seven languages, or one of those programmers who doesn’t speak much but earns a lot, or a trader who plots out a new algorithm strategy…at Danke you will have the opportunity to meet the heros of the future, who will help you on your way as your close friends!

At the second launch of the starling plan, on 07-01, there will be a raffle drawing for a big prize (which remains a secret). We invite all to participate!

konjaku: the following article explains Danke Apartments basic business model. They help you find a suitable apartment and roommate, and they clean, service, and repair the apartments they manage. One can look at apartments for rent at their site:

A typical apartment has two bedrooms, a common living room, a well-appointed kitchen, and a bathroom with toilet, shower, and a washing machine for clothes. [Washing machines are smaller than the western models, and can fit in a bathroom].

Danke Apartments matches into Shanghai


Shanghai is a large metropolis, and international city. Every year thousands and thousands of people come to work –college graduates, all kinds of white collar workers. After getting a job, finding a place to rent is the next most important thing. However, renting is not an easy matter –there are many prospective tenants who come to grief, who may even get duped or cheated out of their money. Already regarded as one of the leading brand names in high-end white-collar apartments, in the 7th month [July] Danke Apartments formally opens into greater Shanghai. For white-collar workers looking for a place to rent, this will be an earth-shaking transformation.


Danke Apartments already has fans in Beijing and Shenzhen. Starting in Beijing, it has established itself as a brand name of high-end products for white-collar workers looking for for a high-quality rental experience. Danke Apartments is not traditional type of rental agency, but an internet company, in asset-management, with no intermediaries. Relying on the “internet plus real estate properties plus financing” model, Danke Apartments received an A+ round of $14 million in its capital fund. Its apartments, beautifully furnished, stocked with brand name electric appliances, and accompanied by top grade service, have won the praise of its customers. In 2016 it was awarded the prize of all-China superlative internet product.


Danke Apartments Shanghai office interior

Now, Danke Apartment fans in Shanghai will have the chance to live in a white-collar apartment that will enhance their “face value” [social status]. In recent years, young people have had a love/hate relationship with Shanghai –steadily rising rents has caused them “to retreat from difficulties” and move away, taking their hopes with them. In the Shanghai market for white-collar renters there is a mix of good and bad: some tenants face noisy environments that force them to terminate their leases, some in the name of sharing a lease have to deal with over-crowding. There is layer upon layer of hidden hazards due to lack of fire prevention measures and general oversight. These problems have a pervasive effect on the rental experiences of 3 million to 4 million renters in Shanghai, including white-collar workers. Danke Apartments has chosen this opportune moment to march into Shanghai and offer a reliable, first-class product paired with excellent service. It will usher in a new era in rentals for white collar workers, showing that high quality does not have to mean a high price tag.

Danke Apartments’ most cherished undertaking is its “one month deposit, one month’s rent in advance” plan. It overturns the huge burden of pressure that the traditional “one month deposit, three month’s rent in advance” provision imposes on prospective tenants, taking leave of that awful era in which renting an apartment “left the inside of your purse cleaner than your face.” The apartments are completely renovated. A special design team made up of architectural designers of the 80s generation have done everything in their power to create a warm living space that is simple, yet complex. The beautiful interiors in TV dramas you vainly dreamed about have actually become reality. We will help you select your lease-partner, and will strictly limit the number of people who can be in one apartment. These basic provisions will open up a high-quality life for you: a public and transparent process, no extra charges or surcharges, free maintenance and repair service, free WIFI. You can relax, knowing that with one phone call you can make an appointment for a professional serviceperson to come and fix whatever problem you have. The apartment will always be kept sparkling, the public spaces in the apartment [excluding bedrooms] will be cleaned every two weeks. If you need to change locations, sublet, or terminate the lease, we will take your needs into consideration and do our best to satisfy you. In order that a larger amount of white-collar renters can enjoy Danke Apartment advantages, we are offering various “Celebrate Shanghai” promotions: new clients can get, 200, 500, or 800 yuan off, and old customers can get a coupon for cash back if they introduce new clients — no limit on how many coupons you can get. To our beloved long-time customers: Can you pass this up?


Our ad covering a bus


a prospective customer


The Danke Apartments Shanghai team

konjaku: here is a profile of a Danke Apartments service manager. This is not the whole article.

Danke apartment manager Wang Huanlin: if you put in hard work, it will result in a good reputation


12:30, a half hour after midnight. Beijing, Changping district, in Tiantongyuan. A room in a Danke Apartments building suddenly lost heat due to a burst radiator, and needed urgent repairs. From his location 10 kilometers away Danke apartment manager Wang Huanlin immediately rode his bicycle to the building, and contacted the building supervisor to stop the water. By 3 A.M. they had managed to effect a solution.

Wang Huanlin applied to be transferred to building manager on his own initiative. Why? This young man with a sunny disposition started to laugh, “When I was a rental agent, I kept hearing from customers their opinions about how to maintain the buildings, and the difficulties they had coordinating the different tasks that were needed.”

Beijing in the 11th month: the temperature suddenly drops, the heating gets turned on, and it is difficult to avoid the problems of pipes leaking or bursting.

One night, a tenant’s electric touchscreen door lock lost power. The device took 9 volt batteries, but they were a special type. Wang Huanlin spent an hour going to five or six different hardware stores until he found the right batteries.
“Being the building manager is much busier than being a rental agent.” But Wang Huanlin had no regrets.

konjaku: the article goes on to say that since Wang Huanlin’s face appears on the site when a customer looks for a room, many people have recognized him when he responds to a call for service.

However, Danke Apartments cannot overcome the prevailing distrust in the rental market that easily.

Danke Apartments rent payment system hits a snag: it actually involves taking out a loan and paying it back by installments

Renters beware of the trap of internet loans

Source: Beijing Evening News


In the season for college graduates to rent an apartment, if one sees slogans like “one month deposit, one month rent in advance” [instead of the standard: one month deposit, three months rent in advance], and “no middleman fees,” it all sounds pretty attractive, especially in Beijing, where it is not easy to find a good deal.

However, these attractive terms conceal fishy problems and risks, and it is possible to fall into a trap. A reader. Ms Liu, recently reported to this paper several problems she encountered when trying to rent. “The broker kept telling me it was ‘one month deposit, one month rent in advance.’ In a muddle I signed the contract, then right away I discovered that I had committed to the full amount for one year’s rent.” Ms Liu wanted to rent a room from Danke Apartments in Chaoyang district [Beijing], but only after she signed the contract did she find out she had committed to one year.

“As for the ‘one month deposit, one month rent in advance,’ this involved making a second contract with a finance company called Huifenqi on an internet platform, in which I would pay one month’s rent at a time to them. In other words, the internet company paid Danke Apartments a year’s rent on my behalf, and I was pledging to pay that amount back to Huifenqi, one month at a time.
One thing that disturbs me is that a Danke Apartments staff member told me, and the application form also states, that there is only one condition, which is clearly and unequivocally stated: the “one month deposit, one month rent in advance.” However, when I signed the contract, this somehow changed to “one year.” Another thing Ms Liu worries about, is whether the money she pays in monthly installments to Huifenqi, will really be credited to Danke Apartments. In the end, is there really a connection between Huifenqi and Danke Apartments? There is nothing written in the contract spelling out their relationship, so she wonders if they are really connected.

“It’s not clear who I’m renting from, and who I am paying. If I’m paying the rent to a third party, it seems fishy. The average consumer can’t tell what is true from what is a sham.” Afterwards, Ms Liu made a strong request to cancel the contract with Danke Apartments.

This reporter made an inquiry to an employee, who said “Danke Apartments” was the trademark for a product line of high-end apartments for white-collar workers, operating under the Ziwutong Property Management firm, based in Beijing. The company was founded in 2015-01, and is officially entered into the O2O rental property market. [O2O stands for “Online to offline.” It is a digital online platform that connects buyers with offline goods and services, comparable to Groupon, Uber, and OpenTable.] They are not in the traditional sense a property rental company, but instead an online platform that offers rental properties, which they also manage. Starting with eleven employees, they now have over 400, and have expanded from Beijing to Shenzhen and Shanghai.

As this reporter found out, Danke Apartments is not a centralized company, but rather one which makes agreements with landlords in dispersed places, to manage their properties as trustees. Danke Apartments does the actual renting, and for larger apartments, such as three bedroom apartments, it rents rooms in the apartment separately, and the individual tenant pays a portion of the rent [shares it with two other roommates].
In the “Terms and Conditions” section of the Danke Apartment website, it clearly states, “the method of payment is one month deposit, one month rent in advance. You will never again have to worry about digging into your pocket for up three months rent in advance.” There is no mention anywhere here of the installment plan as being paid through an internet platform.

In the Huifenqi application, it says the renter will pay to the Huifenqi platform instead of a landlord, and that the renter will pay back a portion of the loan each month as a month’s rent. This arrangement will ease the pressure on renters, it says. They can either pay by registering with Huifenqi, or by using their WeChat account number. But this service is not free. There is a charge of 4 percent at the quarter year mark, 5 percent at the half year, and 8 percent at the one year mark. If one does not pay before the monthly deadline, a penalty of 1 percent is assessed per day.

Actually, there are now many internet platforms now that offer the service of paying monthly rents, and these have broken the tradition of “one month deposit, three months rent in advance” or “one month deposit, six months rent in advance” which existed before. They advertise themselves as “rental properties plus financing plus internet company.” The traditional brick and mortar rental broker Woaiwojia [“I love my home”] now offers a long-term rental service through an internet platform called Fang siling [“Home Commander”]. In 2015, [one of China’s largest e-commerce companies] paired with Ziru Apartments to offer “Ziru Vouchers,” a service to pay for a year-long rental product. started a rental pay-by- monthly installments service called “58 monthly pay.”

These internal rental companies fall into two types. One type offers the user apartment listings based on whatever preferences the user inputs, and offers the “one month deposit, one month rent in advance” option. This includes Home Commander, Ziru Vouchers, and The other type only offers the installment plan of paying monthly rent, but not housing resources, such as Huifenqi and Quzu. In other words, users find the apartment they want to rent by themselves, and once they have finalized the rental agreement with the landlord (amount of rent and payment method), they apply to the internet platform (such as Huifenqi) to borrow the amount. The internet platform pays the landlord, and they pay back the amount monthly to the site.
When renting through an internet platform, what if the internet company does not pay the landlord? It is possible that the landlord, who was perhaps not directly involved in the rental agreement, may still seek out the tenant and demand the money, or force the tenant to leave the apartment. The tenant would be exposed to the double risk of “no home, and no money.” How can one guard against being cheated?

Liu Shuaijun of the Beijing City Jingde Law Firm warns tenants that signing a rental contract and a loan contract means that you are signing two completely separate, unrelated contracts, and this mat be to your disadvantage in case there is any sort of dispute. He advises that whenever the tenant communicates with the renter, the tenant should take careful notes of the conversation or record it. These can become evidence in the event of a lawsuit.

Liu Shauijun said that in the afore-mentioned Ms Liu’s case, Danke Apartments and Huifenqi have a cooperative agreement, similar to that between a real estate developer and a bank, but there is a difference: Danke does not offer a guarantee in regards to the loan taken out by the prospective tenant. The renters are right to be worried if there is no mention in both contracts of the relationship of the one entity to the other.

Liu Shauijun recommends that tenants demand a contract signed by all three parties, stating clearly that Huifenqi will represent the tenant in making a one-time payment of in the amount of the year’s rent to Danke Apartments; that the tenant will thereafter pay back the loan as monthly payments to Huifenqi; that Danke Apartments will provide a written notice to the other two parties that it has received the full amount due, and henceforth the tenant will only owe the agreed upon amount to Huifenqi.

An industry insider said, “Right now it is pretty easy to set up an internet rent-paying site, and most of the platforms offer virtually the same services. These sites even maintain their capital fund through peer-to-peer networks of small lenders.”

iResearch reports that internet finance service is a growing field. Supported by national policy, it is occupying a larger space in the capital market. Internet financing is a especially convenient way to get and make loans. Conventional finance companies need several days to a week to vet a loan, but internet services using AI to comb through data can approve a loan in several hours, or even just several minutes, making the process that much easier for the consumer.

However, because paying rent through internet platforms is relatively new, and still in its first stages, there is inadequate oversight. Many areas are non-standard, one should exercise caution.

konjaku: one can see why Danke Apartments would want tenants to commit to a one year lease. At the same time, tenants may balk at committing to pay through an internet finance company, which is perhaps still a new and unfamiliar arrangement. In time, perhaps these difficulties with the contract process will be cleared up. In other desirable cities in the world in which rents are high, there are similar ventures trying to combine less expensive rents with more services. For instance, in San Francisco there is Starcity, although their focus is more on communal living (including shared kitchens and bathrooms), they also offer free WIFI, cleaning and maintenance in their package.


Huifenqi 会分期
Woaiwojia 我爱我家
House Commander 房司令
Danke Apartments 蛋壳公寓 京东
Ziru vouchers 自如白条




Xiaojiahe shequ part 2: the “portable building village”

konjaku: replacement housing for the Xiaojiahe villagers who signed contracts and moved out:


Built over the subway station, at Yuanmingyuan –the Xiaojiahe New Village


On summer days the lotus flowers are in full bloom, and the lotus flowers at Yuanmingyuang, situated between Zhongguancun and Shangdi, draws swarms of white-collar workers on holidays. To the north of Yuanmngyuang, Xiaojiahe was once classified as one of the sixty focal-point villages, but nowadays it appears to have come into bloom with a new face, as a high-end apartment complex aimed at white-collar workers, operating under the tradename of Danke Apartments, a quickly expanding internet property management firm with lots of capital.

The Nongdananlu (Agricultural University South Road) station on the new Number 16 subway line will open soon [it opened Dec 30, 2017]. There are now several ways to get to Zhongguancun and Shangdi, using the 4 and 16 lines, and transferring to buses –commuting is now extremely easy. From the Xiaojiahe New Village [Danke Apartment] complex, one can go directly into the underground subway station.


The Xiaojiahe New Village [Danke Apartment] complex is next to the west side of the China Agricultural University, and around it is a mature, well-developed town district. Well-established restaurants serving hot pots and other specialities are lined up in great numbers. The Baiwang shopping center is the largest in the area. Supermarket, general merchandise, food and beverages, amusement facilities, everything is there.


Along Nongdananlu Road on weekends for 2.5 kilometers, the street is closed to vehicle traffic for bicylists and pedestrians, to create a relaxed atmosphere. There is an abundance of scenic areas close by with Yuanmingyuan, Yiheyuan (the Summer Palace), and Baiwang Mountain [Baiwangshan forest park]. The Jingmi diversion canal is 1 km away, Shucun County park is 2 km. It is a very convenient place to live.

New subway, new town district, new homes, new life: in changing from its old existence to its new face, the Xiaojiahe New Village is for us undoubtedly a pleasant surprise. If you are a 2017 college graduate, you can participate in the Danke Apartments Starling Plan [I will cover Danke Apartments in a separate post] and get 1000 yuan in credits, which you can use to rent in a Danke apartment anywhere in the country (for details see their website). With so many great advantages, how can you hesitate?


a typical Danke apartment (above)

konjaku:but will the former villagers get to enjoy all the amenities aimed at white-collar workers?

Danke Apartments gets capital investment, see:

Meanwhile, other parts of Xiaojiahe she are still being cleared out in 2017.

Xiaojiahe shequ will clean up 20,000 square meters of illegal buildings — the shequ’s greatest hidden danger

editor Liang Shuang, reporter Ye Xiaoyan, photos Wen Bing
source: Beijing Evening News




Starting this week, Haidian district Xiaojiahe shequ will be cleaned up. The population is severely inverted (more migrants than original residents), the environment is disordered and full of hidden dangers. Starting with sealed management over the area, the buildings will be demolished. A resident said, “Take a look at how we live. At long last it will take on the real appearance of a community.”

If one goes in a small gate with a small sign saying “Xiaojiahe village welcomes you” in the northeast corner from Xiaojiahe bridge, one enters into the Xiaojiahe shequ one-story house district. As with many such houses in the urban-rural intersecting zone, the road is only wide enough for one car to pass at a time, and on both sides between the low-lying houses, narrow alleys like capillaries wind off into the distance. This area is divided into three types: (1) homesteads with garden belonging to agricultural families, (2) historical compounds, and (3) illegal buildings. These illegal buildings were built on top of vegetable plots. The Party General Secretary Mu Zenggang is aware of the situation. “These vegetable fields once provided an important food supply for Haidian District. At that time I was head of the production brigade here. Starting in 2000, there was not enough water, and the villagers realized they could make money by renting out rooms instead, and one after another buildings sprang up.”

Mu Zenggang took this reporter through a full-scale rental complex. In this area there were some 2000 rooms for rent. It seemed like a small society of its own. “Every winter this area is a big headache for us –worrying about fires, carbon monoxide poisoning. ” He said that once villagers started renting rooms, they sub-contracted out the business, and now there are layers and layers of sub-contractors. “Now there are 12 big landlords and 23 small landlords. The landlords only collect the rent, and pay no attention to safety issues.”

Inside the rental complex there are many illegal buildings. One can vaguely discern the outline of the original form of the compound [imagine it without the illegal additions]. The large compound has been divided into several smaller ones. In a smaller compound, marked by an iron gate, there are twenty rooms about ten meters square. The outer walls are fitted with a wind scoop, because previously they had all been heated by coal stoves. This is one hidden danger (carbon monoxide poisoning). Another is that there are only two or three roads that pass entirely through the 20,000 square meter area, and they are narrow and winding. If there is a fire, the outcome is dreadful to contemplate.

Photo: example of a wind scoop, which provides ventilation when using a coal stove.


This year (2017) 7th month, in conjunction with the project to “switch from coal to electricity” Malianwa district will start to reorder the area. They have already repaved the roads and created zones marked by yellow lines in which only electric vehicles and bicycles can park, not cars –which has brought smiles to people’s faces. This ensures that there will be space for ambulances and fire trucks to pass through. “Last month many tenants moved out. We had to deal with the mess left first. It seemed like the street was blocked up by items such as discarded cooking pots. In order to regulate parking, in the southeast corner of the shequ we have put in a parking lot that can handle as many as eighty cars. Also, we have eliminated the garbage cans that stood in one place which people could use at any time, and are guiding the residents to put out their trash on specified days and times for pick-up by our newly allocated garbage truck. We are increasing the number of times the garbage is picked up or cleaned and removed from the streets. Before, wastewater flowing out in the streets mixed with garbage, but this won’t happen anymore.”

Mu Zenggang said, “Now that we have dealt with the problems, Xiaojiahe can at last stop being labelled as a ‘ a focal-point area for public security problems and hidden dangers.’ My anxieties are mostly relieved.” After clearing up the illegal buildings, the area will put sealed management into place, installing security cameras and adding more patrols to look out for fires or other dangers. “Because of the complicated history of this area, levying the land for development has not yet been completed. During an interim period before re-development, the area will be sealed off. ”

konjaku: nevertheless, another area is mysteriously beyond government control.

Xiaojiahe portable building village — there are illegal buildings on close to 10,000 square meters, the government says it cannot afford to demolish them


reporter: Liu Fei

On the edge of construction sites, one can often see portable buildings, those with “white walls, blur roofs,” removed when the construction project is done. However there is one small district in Beijing where the construction project has been suspended, but the portable buildings have not been dismantled and removed. On the contrary, over several years the number has increased, with a number of such buildings on one parcel of land, numbered and organized, to form a unique urban village composed of these portable buildings. The local city management department says that these are clearly illegal buildings.

Photos: examples of portable buildings



If these buildings are illegal, now did it come to be an urban village in which people live? How did this “portable village” develop?

The Beijing city statistics bureau published the results of a survey, indicating that more than half of Beijing’s migrant residents live outside the fifth ring. Xiaojiahe urban village, just outside the fifth ring, has a large concentration.

Seller: do you want to rent a room? We have some. Wait a minute –that man will tell you about it.

Landlord: I have rooms for 600 or 650, good for those with temporary jobs or selling. Electricity is 13 yuan a month, other utilities are free; pay that by the month. For the room, I like to have three month’s rent upfront, but you can pay one month at a time if you have to.

Reporter: And this room is in a portable building?

Landlord: It’s all portable buildings here. We live in them, we rent out rooms in them to migrants. This group of buildings, some are rented to people to live in, others are rented as warehouses, they have water and electricity, and you can add satellite tv if you want.

In the same parcel of land there are some unfinished cement buildings that stopped at one story, with the steel reinforcing bars for the second story exposed to the sky, swaying in the wind. These too are rented out as living spaces or warehouses.

Ms Li, a resident: These were originally a planned development of detached houses, but the upper stories and roofs were never built. There have been several bursts of activity in building simple and crude structures over the last several years. Because there are so many people living here in a small space, they have even dug basements and some are living underground. Sanitation is poor. Several years ago, a section was lost to fire.

Usually rooms in portable buildings are rented without furniture or other facilities, but tenants can get coal stoves in winter and air conditioners in the summer.

In this district of portable buildings, everywhere one sees some people pushing handcarts selling snacks, some dragging heavy carts selling goods, and some selling out of minibuses. At the south end of the area there is a garbage dump.

Resident: One night I woke up, and they were burning the garbage, the smell was really strong. That made me mad –afterwards I reported it to the police, but too much time had passed, it was too late.

Resident: I see all kinds of bad things that go in in these shacks. Within a small area you can find just about anything there is in the big city — like the black clinic.

Even though the illegal buildings come in many different forms, this place is like other urban villages: on the one hand cheap and convenient; on the other, full of hidden dangers from inadequacies in sanitation, public security, and fire prevention.

After the last several years Beijing has launched a strict initiative against illegal buildings. Residents in the area have discussed the problems of the portable building village with City Management, but in the end City Management Department Deputy-Director Wang Hongjun says they simply cannot demolish so many illegal buildings over so large an area.

Wang Hongjun said, “ Someone reports an illegal building, or we discover it ourselves, but when we search for it we find that a new buildings stands where we removed one before. As soon as we finished demolishing and move on, someone comes and puts up a new portable building on the same spot. One thing we can do is seal shut all of the underground rooms before the flood season. But as for the buildings above ground, we are unable to get rid of them, because the cost is too high.”

白墙蓝顶”的活动板房 white wall and blue-roofed portable buildings
板房村 “portable building village”

konjaku: the following article explains the origin of the portable building village

A thousand workers encircle the unfinished building project because of unpaid wages –they create a “demanding arrears portable building village”

Source Jinghua Times


Close to one thousand workers have lived among the unfinished buildings at the construction site for the Yuanmingyuan Flower Garden Villas for eight years, since work on the project was suspended. In order to have a place to live, they have put up blue-roofed portable buildings around the site, connected to gas, electricity, even cable tv. Cheap rents in these buildings have attracted migrant workers and peddlers. Gradually the population has grown, until it has become a “portable building village” of 2000 people, a unique form of settlement within Beijing city.

The workers are unwilling to leave until the dispute over unpaid wages is resolved.A residential district official said that although the area is over-crowded and the buildings all illegal, if they dismantle buildings the workers simply put up new ones, putting the authorities in a predicament.

Beijing in the 6th month, the days have started to become hot and dry. A couple of old people hobble slowly along, frequently bending over to carefully examine some piece of scrap on the ground to see if it can be resold, and if so, slowly putting it in a burlap bag. At nightfall, these two stagger inside the enclosing wall that surrounds the rows of portable buildings, and disappear inside. In there is what they call their home.

Outside the 5th ring, near Xiaojiahe Bridge, there is a district of ten thousand square meters enclosed by a wall, with neat and orderly rows of portable buildings, and also with unfinished structures that are topped by a chaotic jumble of criss-crossing exposed steel reinforcing rods. This small area forms a marked contrast with the new high-rise residential complexes in the vicinity.




Originally in this district there was a project to build 35 villas. Before the project was suspended, work had begun on the basements and first floor, with steel reinforcing bars to support the second floor.


During the initial phase of construction, these two old men had been watchmen at the construction site. At that time they never thought they would be “watching over” the site eight years later. Passing inside the portable building village on a crooked and pot-holed road one comes to their “home, “ a ten square meter room with only the most basic furniture, and no electronic appliances. Sitting in the unendurably hot and muggy room the two recount the history of how they came to Beijing.

In 2007, the son of one of the old men had become the leader of a construction team. He brought 300 men from Anyang in Henan province, their hometown, in order to work on this construction project; they were all hoping they could come to Beijing and make some money. The workers themselves had to contribute money to the project. The old man estimated that each put in at least 30,000 yuan. To raise this money they borrowed from friends and relatives. Many put in as much as 1 million yuan. The old man’s daughter-in-law explained that because the son (her husband) was the construction team leader, they raised more than 3 million yuan from friends and relatives, and then came to Beijing, bringing their parents with them.

In addition there were two other constructions teams, in the same way each with a team leader, each with some 300 workers. Altogether 1000 workers came to the construction site, from Sichuan, Hebei, Henan and Northeast China. These three teams signed an agreement with the contractor, Tangxian Huacheng company, to together build the Yuanmingyuan Flower Garden Villas (Third Stage).

However, the project never progressed smoothly as the workers had expected. Beginning on 2007-10-28, the work was shut down several times, the last time being 2008-05-27, and has not resumed since. For eight years, the contractor and the supplier (of building materials) have not once paid the wages owed to the workers, and the workers have been steadily waiting both for the work to resume and to receive their money, while living at the building site.

According to a Malianwa residential district official, tha parent company, Yuanmingyuan Flower Garden Villas Company, was in arrears in payments to the contractor (Tangxian Huacheng company), which could not pay the workers or buy materials. Therefore work was suspended, but the workers refused to leave. “This portable village is something which didn’t just spring up in one night and a day.”

Both sides disagree as to why the work was suspended. The workers say that Yuanmingyuan Flower Garden Villas Company did not pay its bills starting 2008-06-13. The company says that they actuallty began postponing payments at a later date, and the reason was that the other side sub-contracted work out to unknown parties who themselves sub-contracted the work out to others. This led to a lack of trust, in which they could not be sure the terms of the original contract were being followed, and for that reason they suspended the work.

Both sides have another point of conflict: the disagree on how to calculate the amount of money owed. Ms Wu, representative of the worker’s side, said that cost of building supplies, unpaid wages to workers, and salaries to those who have been watching over the construction site for 96 months, amounts to 35 million yuan ($ 5.5 million).

The representative for the developer said, thirty five villas had been completed at a cost to the company of 26 million yuan, and they previously paid the workers 3 million yuan. In addition, they provided the steel reinforcing rods at a cost of about 8 million yuan, but only a small amount of them were actually used in the construction, and afterwards the workers sold off the rest. If one considers these expenses, they don’t owe the workers anything. The other side is just pulling this 30 million yuan figure out of thin air.
In another wrinkle, in 2010 one supplier, a cement company, sued both the developer and the workers for unpaid receipts. However, according to the standard Beijing contract, the developer pays 30 percent up front but the complete amount only after the completion of the building. Since no building had been completed, and the corresponding certificates of inspection on the quality of cement provided were lacking, the court ruled that it was premature to expect full payment, rejecting the suit.

For eight years, the workers have been living in the portable building village. On the one hand, they waited to settle their accounts, on the other, they looked for new ways to make a living.


At dawn each day, the quiet portable building village becomes noisy and bustling, as residents prepare for the day’s work. Vender pushing food stalls head toward the market area, to serve simple breakfasts, or sell fruit and vegetables. Those who remain behind in the village are mostly the old and the young. Often the old people walk about with bags picking up scrap they can resell to supplement their household income, and the children follow behind and play around the trash heaps. “We are anxious to return home, but we cannot,” says the old father of the construction team leader. With tears in his eyes, he says, over and over, “We borrowed 3 million yuan.” Not to mention the interest on such a large sum. The old man cannot go back and face his relatives and friends, in eight years he has not once returned home.


When work first stopped in 2008, there were two rows of perfectly good portable buildings set up outside the construction site. The workers first moved into these. After the district government demolished these buildings, they had nowhere else to go, but were unwilling to leave the area without collecting their money, therefore for a while they all began living inside the construction site. At night they stayed in the rooms below ground in the unfinished buildings.

After one year, because the underground rooms were cold, gloomy, and wet, many old people and children began to have health problems. Gradually people began to put up portable buildings on the site, moving to a life above ground. Throughout 2013 portable buildings continued to rise up, ringing the construction site, By the end of 2014 portable buildings had reached a peak of prosperity. But the cost to put up a one room portable building was 7000 yuan, and a few families who could not afford that continued to live underground.

The housing problem was solved for most, but then, how to make a living? Some women raised chickens next to their “homes,” others grew corn and vegetables. Some they consumed themselves, some they sold in the market. The men did odd jobs when available or ran small businesses. Many were like Mr Zhang, from Sichuan. He had borrowed 1 million yuan, therefore he felt he couldn’t go home without waiting for his unpaid wages. However, his mother back home had no one to look after her, so her brought her to Beijing. In order to live, his mother gathered waste scraps and grew vegetables.

As with Mr Zhang, more families began bringing their aged relatives to Beijing, and the population living in the portable buildings increased. According to the workers team leader, at present there are 2000 living in the buildings. 80 percent of those are workers waiting to be paid, and 20 percent are tenants.

Looking around, old and young people are walking about, laundry is hanging out to dry from windows. The walls of the buildings are plastered with rental signs, for rooms to rent to live in from 300 to 600 yuan, or to use as storerooms. If the tenant customer wants to rent a new building, the landlord offers to erect one within three days. Because the rental rates for portable buildings are so cheap, this attracts migrant workers, as well as small tradesmen and peddlers.

The residential district office estimates there are some 500 rooms going for rent in the portable building village, although there are a number that are unregistered. One landlord claims to have 30 rooms to rent in one building, and if one calculates 500 yuan per room for a month, that is a pretty good income (15,000 yuan, approximately $2400).

There are two entrances to the portable building village, which means there are many people passing freely in and out. Add this to the density of the population living inside, and things are chaotic. People drag carts of scrap to a waste products processing facility inside the village. Crude toilet facilities are set up in one location, and next to that is a hole dug in the ground for trash. This spot has an awful smell.

According to the authorities responsible for this district, the portable buildings are illegal. The Malianwa district office said these plots of land have been mortgaged out to different parties multiple times, and the situation was very complex. Besides the dispute between the workers and the developer, there are other legal disputes, such that it is impossible to say who exactly has property rights over the land.

The Malianwa district office spokesperson said that the head of the development corporation had been out of the country for a long period, and had left several subordinates to deal with this matter. These persons have been in regular touch with the district office, and they recognize that they are in arrears and owe unpaid wages to the workers. The problem is, each side has its own version of what the figure should be. The district office has made an attempt to mediate the dispute, but a person with responsibility to negotiate for the developer has failed to appear.


According to the Malianwa district office, “the reason why there are illegal buildings on such a scale, is that when we demolish them, they simply put up new ones, and despite repeated bans this cannot be stopped.” It costs money to demolish, and for illegal buildings inside the construction zone, this should be the responsibility of the developer, but “in the present situation, the developer is not putting out any money, and this is a real problem.”

Many times residents in the vicinity have complained to the authorities, that the environment in the portable village is degraded, or that they have seen fires break out. The authorities say that many times they have gone in and cleaned up the area, in 2012-08-10 they demolished 70 homes, in 2014-05-08 they demolished 24 homes. But each time after a month had passed the workers had put up new portable buildings on those sites, and even expanded the area in which these buildings were erected, therefore they were unable to finish the job of clearing up the area.

Why haven’t all the illegal buildings been torn down? The Malianwa district office says it simply cannot afford to do it. The area filled with illegal buildings is large, the number of buildings is great,. “ To demolish a few buildings is not a problem, but here the area in question is ten thousand square meters. It costs 100 yuan for every square meter. To get started, we would need to have five million yuan ($780,000). Since this area is an unfinished construction project, it is stipulated to be the developer’s responsibility to put up the capital to demolish.”

The Malianwa district office spokesperson said that waiting for unpaid wages does not justify making a living by renting out illegal buildings. City Management is at present clearing out those people that live in the underground spaces under unfinished buildings, and sealing up the entrances. If there is a heavy rain, water could flood into those spaces, in which people are using fire, gas, and electricity. This would be a danger to them and to public safety. These spaces also provide a place for travelling venders and others engaged in illegal food reprocessing (treating old or spoiled food products with chemicals and reselling).

On 05-25 the Malianwa district set up a command post and began removing people from the underground spaces. By 05-28, people and the goods were out, and the entrances were sealed up with brick fragments.

The spokesperson said that if in the future all the illegal buildings in the portable building village are removed, the workers will be provided with dormitories to stay in, in order that they can remain at the site until their dispute is resolved. “We must give these workers a place to live.”

For now, it is unknown how long this situation will continue.

text: Jinghua Times reporters Zheng Yujia Han Tianbo Chang Xin
photos: Zhao Siheng

konjaku: in the photo below, there are rows of portable buildings in the foreground, and an apartment building complex in the background. The sign on top of the buildings says “Yuanmingyuang Garden [Villas].” This is probably an earlier stage of the construction project,  a stage which was successfully completed.1-16111501152MF.JPG










Village # 14 Xiaojiahe shequ

Village # 14 is Xiaojiahe, shequ, under the administration of the Malianwa residential district, in Haidian district

Xiaojiahe, shequ 肖家河社区
Malianwa residential district马连洼街道
Haidian district 海淀区

konjaku: Xiaojiahe has gotten attention in the media as a village in which members of the “ant tribe” have settled. The ant tribe refers to college graduates either looking for jobs in, or recently hired into, the tech industry, centered in Zhongguocun (Beijing’s silicon valley). Beginning in 2010, there were a number of stories about a flood of recent college graduates, whose numbers outpaced the available jobs in the science and technology sector. As these graduates got by with lesser positions or part-time work, they faced rising rents in Beijing, and were forced to live in the overcrowded urban villages along with migrant laborers. The urban villages offered cheap rents and mass transportation to tech districts, but did not meet any building codes or safety standards.
The first village that received coverage was Tangjiangling. A group of mothers toured the dark and narrow living quarters with expressions of concern, a mop top duo with guitars composed anthems of the graduates’ tribulations, and the bus stop where the graduates lined up every morning in the thousands to takes buses to Zhongguancun became a famous place. Tangjiangling was soon designated one of the 50 villages, and was demolished. The graduates moved on to Liulangzhuang, also subsequently demolished, and then, apparently, to Xiaojiahe and other places.

The eventual fate of the ant tribe seems a more compelling story in the media than paying attention to the migrant laborers who also have been forced to move on from one urban village to the next. But another reason reporters have come to investigate Xiaojiahe is that it is a good example of the idea that the urban village has become something that, after being demolished, continues a kind of half-existence, or freely replicates itself in other places. As long as people come to Beijing to try to make their fortune, they will need a place offering cheap rents, basic services, and lax administration.

As detailed below, the land occupied by the village called Xiaojiahe ( the extent to which it was ever a village is in dispute) was turned over to Peking University, in a project to demolish the village and build faculty housing. Although this project was delayed by corrupt transactions, eventually the majority of the villagers moved away, into new replacement housing. However, a larger entity, Xiaojiahe shequ, with the same characteristics of an urban village, continued to exist in the same general area. While the village was demolished by 2013, news articles about renting to migrants, or about demolishing illegal buildings in Xiaojiahe shequ, continue up to the present (2017-18).

This summary of Xiaojiahe is undated, but is probably before 2011.肖家河

Previously called Xiaojiahe village, because of the fast pace of development in Beijing it is now more of a region than a village. It is on the northern edge of Yuanmingyuan (park and ruins of the former imperial gardens and palace), on the north bank of the Qinghe river, and southwest of the China Agricultural University. It started as an army barracks protecting Yuanmingyuan. It hass been classified as one of the fifty “focal-point” urban villages to be transformed.

At present it takes fifth place in all Beijing city for the influx of migrants. For every one thousand residents, there are several tens of thousands of migrants. One-story houses have had another story added, to create rooms to rent to migrants. As one of the last areas of old one-story houses not yet demolished by 2010, it was a place for members of the ant tribe (college graduates looking for high-tech jobs) to cluster, being only 20-30 minutes from Zhongguancun (Beijing’s silicon valley), and thus a flourishing business for area residents renting to tenants.

There are 5131 permanent residents and 17,800 migrants living in Xiaojiahe shequ.

In the village 80% of the tenants are migrants, with the remaining 20% of renters being mostly older people. The young have increasingly moved away.

The two and three story buildings, whether older or newer, are all illegal. The demolition and relocation plan stipulates that none of them meet the standard for compensation. When public security or city management personnel were around villagers adding to their homes stopped work, but when these management people left, they resumed work at a feverish pace. They feel the profits they can receive from renting, will, when the village is finally demolished, make up for the compensation they will not receive. “In a word, constructing rooms to rent is a form of steady income, it can’t lose.”

Xiaojiahe is an example of many urban villages, dispersed in hidden corners of the urban fabric. Spurred on by demand and desire for profit, they keep replicating themselves.

konjaku: here we are introduced to the plan to demolish the village and build housing for Peking University starting in late 2011.

Peking University “enclosed site” to build on is an urban village: the demolition and relocation of villagers is starting up

2011-07-19 09:39:12

Eight years ago the government granted to Peking University 430,000 square meters of land, on which sits an urban village slated to be transformed. As of 2011-05, Peking University formally began the project to build the Xiaojiahe Teaching and Administrative Staff Residential Housing. Total investment is 4200,000,000 yuan (634 million dollars). According to a rough draft of the plan, this will provide housing for 5000 families.


a rendering of the Peking University plan (above)

When Tsinghua University carelessly revealed that it planned to build 5000 residential units, this caused a storm of public opinion (see note below), and Peking University is being very low key in the aftermath. There are many colleges, universities and research institutes in the same boat as Peking University, that want to solve the difficult problem of insufficient housing for young faculty and staff.

An official from the land resources bureau who did not want to give his or her name said that if colleges and universities build their own housing for young faculty members and sell it to them at a reduced price based on their ability to pay, these faculty members then do not have to go out into society and compete for other public housing resources (government-built low income housing). This is not a bad thing. “The key is to make sure the funds for construction are not allocated from state financial resources. Also, if this goes along with a project to transform an urban village, what’s wrong with that?”

On the south side of the China Agricultural University western campus is a large patch of one- story homes straddling Yuanmingyuan West Road. To the north a number of tall buildings tower overhead, making the village seem out of place. This reporter visited this patch of land which is about to be demolished. A resident on the east side of the road told me that from the 5th month demolish-and-relocate notices have been put out, and employees of the relocation company have been going door to door measuring and surveying houses. On the west side of the road there are narrow alleys of small stores going in all directions, and the demolish-and-relocate posters are on all the walls, dated 2011-05-13. The announcement states that Peking University has a contract (2010) with the Beijing Municipal Government to construct its faculty housing at Xiaojiahe, and as of 2011-05-12, all new house construction or additions to houses must be suspended.

A passerby pointed out to this reporter the headquarters of the Xiaojiahe neighborhood committee. In the display window outside the headquarters was posted the environmental impact report on the project, signed by the University.

This poster describes the scale of the project. What will we constructed is: housing for teaching and administrative staff, a complete residential village with facilities, public service centers, and replacement housing for the village. Construction will start on 2012-05.
This reporter called the phone number given on the notice, which turned out to be the construction office of the Peking University Xiaojiahe project. The staff member who answered said, “We have not comprehensively put together all the data yet. In this first stage of the project, we have been very busy, and we are not yet ready to receive inquiries from the media.”

Xiaojiahe compensation and replacement housing project starting up

There will be a dual process of substitution of the old house area for the new residence, and also monetary compensation. There are 248 household compounds to be demolished, involving 1056 people (the population listed in the records). The Tengyu Demolition and Relocation Company won the contract, and is starting work on 2011-10-20.

Xiaojiahe was designated a focal-point village by Beijing city in 2010. Because it is in the urban-rural intersection zone, there are many migrants who rent as tenants, and the rental housing constructed by villagers, lacks official property rights. At this point, the command post has laid the foundation for the job, by surveying each house, according to “quality over speed” and “taking the easier first, the hard later.” The demolition and relocation company knows the village situation well. They have drawn up a meticulous plan, and dispatched their crack troops and brilliant commanders in six small working groups. Already they have got many families to sign contracts.


Note: for the Tsinghua University controversy, see

“Tsinghua University faculty are not really of the social stratum that qualifies for preferential treatment allowing them to pay less for housing. The government should allot the land for those who are really in need. If the available land in Haidan district decreases after Tsinghua University gets what it wants, then everyone else who wants to purchase residences will face more competition, and higher prices, for fewer housing choices, ” Beijing real estate specialist Chin Bing commented.
According to Chin Bing, unless Tsinghua University can prove that the land on which QianBajia and HouBajia sits originally belonged to the University, it will be difficult to remove doubts that they are trying to seize public resources, wealth and benefits belonging to village residents and the public. If the village land is not granted to Tsinghua University, it will be turned into market priced housing. The profits from sales of those residences will be income going back to the government, which will in turn benefit the residents.

konjaku: several blogs detail progress in the project, and then delays:

2011-05-06 the Xiaojiahe region began the process of demolition and relocation. [Summary: the Malianwa neighborhood, according to instructions, convened assemblies of residents and party members to hear details of the plan and give opinions. Party members committed themselves to be the first to move out of their homes, then went among the masses to give information, heart-to-heart talks, feedback, listen to objections, etc., to prepare for an orderly process of demolition and relocation, etc. etc.]

The Tengyu demolition company, which has transitioned from a state-run enterprise to a market-economy company, won the bid to demolish and relocate villagers at Xiaojiahe in preparation for construction of housing for Peking University teaching and administrative staff. Last year they also won the bid to demolish other buildings at the site, which gives them two good outcomes and the income from both projects in the bag. At the command post they are vigorously organizing the command structure, and meticulously forming small groups, following the watchwords “quality first, speed second,” and “difficulties will come later, but persevere.” In a deep and thorough-going way they are going house to house to carry out field work.

Because this area is in an intermixed urban-rural zone, there are many buildings renting to tenants, the migrant population is high. The composition of people living in any one building is complex. There are many buildings with upper stories added on privately; in general, the putative owners of buildings have no papers showing their property rights. For all these reasons the field work — a survey of each building and its occupants –runs into obstacles every day. At present 87% of the survey is complete, amounting to 208 household compounds. The area to be surveyed is in total 105,600 square meters, with 248 compounds, and 1056 registered permanent residents. The compensation plan is still being worked out. At present there is a section of homes that cannot be assessed yet, they are waiting for more details on the compensation policy to come out before they agree to the process. As soon as that is done, the demolition and relocation will begin immediately.


konjaku: this is in May, then June. However, six months later:


The demolition and relocation project of Xiaojiahe has at present been obstructed. The reason is that Haidian township has maliciously embezzled ownership of buildings slated to be demolished. The original owners signed contracts under which they would be paid for the buildings, but Haidian township, saying the contracts were under review in a new examination and approval process, seized the rights to the buildings for themselves. Later an informant made clear the reason behind this. It was because Haidian township gave the rights to several buildings set to be demolished in Dashiqiao to Tsinghua University. The owners of those building refused to go along, and camped out in protest in a multii-story office building in Haidian township. At the end of its rope, and to solve the issue, Haidian township then gave the rights to the Xiaojiahe buildings to the Dashiqiao owners (by embezzling the funds set aside for the Xiaojiaje building owners). Now that the truth has come out into the daylight, the villagers of Xiaojiahe have woken up, and the demolition is halted. Ha Ha.

Another blogger’s comment

You all shouldn’t complain about about Peking University as being behind the demolition problem. The real cause of misfortune is the close connection formed between the Xiaojiahe project team and Haidian township. Someone took the funds set aside for the Peking University project and gave them to Haidian township. The appraisal team had already taken their share of the money. At present, Haidian township, in order to placate other aggrieved parties, has embezzled from the Xiaojiahe project. Where is Heaven’s justice? I hope the Beijing Municipal Party Committee and the Xiaojiahe village wake up to the truth soon. If you’re about to sign a contract, don’t be taken in!

konjaku: because of this, it seems the demolition and relocation project of Xiaojiahe was delayed. The next thing I find (another blog) dated 2014, says the demolition took place the previous year, 2013, which means that perhaps there was a delay of two years.


I live close to Xiaojaihe at Zhonghai Fenglian. I have passed by it everyday from childhood and seen all the changes.

They say Xiaojiahe was originally a shabby old village 90 years ago, next to the China Agricultural University. But that’s all nonsense, there was nothing there back then. After the Zhongguancun Industrial Park was built, a large batch of northern floaters who were temporary workers settled there. More technology workers settled there after 2000, following construction of the Shangdi Science and Technology Park.

The villagers used this opportunity to build up their own homes, to three, four, or five stories. The buildings were densely packed, streets narrowed, small stores facing the street carelessly splashed dirty water, wastewater flowed along both sides of Yuanmingyuan Road, garbage was everywhere.

Last year, the majority of Xiaojiahe was demolished in order to make way for the Number 16 subway line. But the strange thing is, the ten or twenty houses of the resisters (nail houses) were not demolished. Four story buildings sit isolated amid the ruins. But many of the villagers relocated long ago.

As construction began on the Number 16 subway line and the Peking Unversity residential quarters began rising from the ground, these lonely nail houses stood out all the more. These are buildings put up by villagers without permits, not 500 meters from the scenic district of Yuanmingyuan. What was left were the larger buildings, four to six stories, not the two or three story ones, perhaps these would cost more to demolish.

I found these photos, of the buildings finally being demolished.




If you built an illegal building, why, when the majority of your neighbors leave, do you not also leave? Is it possible that you demand higher compensation? Are you unwilling to accept the replacement housing, or do think the compensation is insufficient?

I could not possibly act like you in such a reckless way, regardless of the consequences. Maybe the government policy was not good, but 99% of your neighbors accepted it and left.

konjaku: one would expect that is the end of Xiaojiahe. However,  articles in 2013 describes the Xiaojiahe area still operating as before.

Xiaojiahe becomes the new place of residence for the ant tribe –villagers turn from planting vegetables to renting rooms


Reporters Liu Fei, Xiao Yuan. Trainee, Zhao Huiying

As reported in China Voice, Tangjialing, Xiaoyuehe, Xiaojiahe…these have all been locations where the ant tribe has flocked to live. Tangjialing, one of the 50 listed-up villages, has been already transformed from a dirty and disorderly urban village, to a re-made urban district.

However, at present there is still a part of Xiaojiahe shequ, densely packed with illegal buildings, on what were once vegetable fields. These buildings were constructed to rent rooms to migrants. This area is not far from the university, next to busy city roads, and borders on orderly rows of multi-story buildings. This area of rentals from door to door, house to house, is a mire of foul odors, strewn with garbage. It forms a hidden danger to public safety.

Mr Wang: “As a location it is convenient to the Fifth Ring, and to Zhongguocun (Beijing’s silicon valley). Traffic conditions are pretty good too.”

Mr Wang is a temporary laborer who came here four or five years ago, and rents a room here for about 600 yuan a month. He said the peasants who used to grow vegetables here now make more money by putting up buildings on the land and renting rooms to migrants like himself.

The villagers say honestly that there was no profit in growing vegetables, but renting rooms makes their lives much easier. The buildings they construct are not standard. They have no proof of property rights. When they rent, they don’t use a contract. The person that wants to rent simply gives a cash deposit of 100 yuan, then shows up on the appointed day.

The majority of these buildings are brick. Going inside, there are can be ten, or even up to thirty rooms. Various odds and ends are on the floor, and on the wall are posted yellowing warning notices from the police and fire department. The narrow paths that link the buildings are winding and zig-zagged, there are many tunnels through which a person can barely pass. After it rains, the dirt roads turn to a muddy mire, and there is a stench from escaping sewage.

In going about interviewing people, we reporters have found that the rental rooms are densely packed, there are many people living in a confined space, the roads are meandering, and at night there are no streetlights. Gas, fire, electricity–the hidden dangers are frightful to contemplate. In this urban-rural zone outside the fifth ring, who has managing authority?

In answer to this question, tenants say: last year, City Management personnel inspected here for one period of time. During the day they sat there, and did not let anyone proceed with building [illegal buildings or additions to buildings]. People waited till they left, then began building again. In general they did not make anyone dismantle anything they had built, just prevented them from building. Sometimes they made people tear down a section of a recently constructed second story, but the people waited till they were gone and just rebuilt it.

During the winter, the village committee came and passed out safety information. They knew these buildings were here, that they had been built up on vegetable fields.

(Another tenant:) On a winter’s day, the village neighborhood committee sent people to go door to door to pass out safety information sheets. One was about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning, one was about the danger of old electrical wires causing fires. The village committee people greeted everyone, and inspected for hidden dangers.

Government says: in this urban rural linked zone, City Management, the Neighborhood Committee, and the Town Administration to some extent overlap. Taking Haidian town as the main managerial authority, they are aware of the situation concerning the illegal buildings.

A Haidian town illegal building inspector: this formerly rural area has become covered with illegal buildings, all done without permits. Why don’t we dismantle them then? At present, we cannot act. If we just start dismantling the illegal buildings, the villagers will have nowhere to live. Everywhere there are illegal buildings, and unless the problem is tackled as a whole and there are provisions for all the residents to relocate, only then can the illegal buildings disappear.

Here one can go out one’s door, and there is a food market, one can see a doctor, there is a school one’s child can go to, a short distance away is a small retail district. Traffic is convenient, and rents are cheap. All these factors combine to make this place ideal for members of the ant tribe. However, the dirty and messy environment, poor sanitation, and unsafe construction of buildings present fears that cannot be ignored.

Three years ago, the transformation of Tangjialing began, and many members of the ant tribe had no choice but to look for new digs. Following the Changping subway line toward the north, they encamped in one noisy and chaotic village after another. But even as they moved farther from the city, rents steadily climbed. In the three years since 2010 rents have risen 40 percent overall, in some hot areas as much as 50 percent. The ant tribe had nowhere to rest. Eventually, places like Xiaojiahe came to seem favorable. But how to deal with the hidden dangers of Xiaojiahe? How about finding a way for the ant tribe to live somewhere with some dignity?

Original title: Xiaojiahe is reduced to an urban village –here the ant tribe finds its new “Tangjialing”

Beijing urban village, Xiaojiahe: all the rentals are illegal buildings –they can manage the rent money, but not public safety



author Zhao Xibin

Rents in Beijing have risen every month, for the last 52 months, up to the time of this article. This means recent graduates, probably starting out with little income, have looked to the outer suburbs of the city to find something affordable.

Outside the 5th ring, Xiaojiahe is an urban village offering cheap rents. In graduation season, the rental market heats up, and the village is buzzing with activity. Young faces shuttle back and forth. Some have already rented, others are looking for rooms. Whether these illegal buildings are safe or not does not enter into their minds –it’s the price they care about.

This reporter went to Xiaojiahe to investigate why urban villages existing as rentals for recent college graduates, like Tangjialing, [the first place these graduates congregated, before it was demolished] keep replicating themselves.

Grease stains seep across the yellow cloth filled with chunks of meat, and there is a small fan hanging above the cloth to drive away flies and mosquitos. The meat vender’s stall is next to a fruit stand, next to grocery store –all crowded together. The smell of garbage and effluent water attacks the nostrils of passersby.

Inside Xiaojiahe village, 200 meters north of the bridge marking the Fifth Ring, it is pretty hard to find any one-story house without a rental sign posted on the wall. Other signs sprout up along the sides of the road. There are many two or three story additions, added by the owner. A Mr Zhao said this started four years ago. “We built up to add 20 rooms. The cheapest is 550 yuan a month ($83). Right now we have two rooms for rent.”

Inside each ten meter square room along a long corridor, there is one bed, one simple wardrobe, and one table. This is standard. Mr Li, 24 years old, had just rented a second-story room. He spread out the bedding he had used in his college years on the bed, and put a washbasin under the bed. A plastic box held his clothes. The last article to unpack was a few books, which he placed where he liked, beside the bed.

There was one 80 centimeter fan, and a window 50 centimeters high. The sunlight, passing through the metal grating put on the window to prevent theft, required a great effort to get into the room at all. Every window in Xiaojiahe has this metal grating, and the space between buildings can be less than a half meter.

“Many live here because it is close to the jobs in Zhongguancun, and rents are cheap.” There are a number of public transportation lines from Xiaojiahe that go toward Zhongguancun. Rent is 600 yuan a month, with 60 yuan for internet and 40 yuan for water and electricity.

Despite the yellowing notices posted from the fire department, the rental buildings are not equipped with a single fire extinguisher. Electric wires snake into rooms in a disordered way. Many rooms have induction cookers, electric kettles, or other electric devices, but the power strips provided are not in good shape. this creates a hidden danger, but Mr Li was not concerned. “These problems are minor. What matters is that the rent is good, and the location is great.”

Just as on every other day, Hu Yong waits to squeeze on to the 333 bus for Zhongguancun. Once Hu Yong and all the other office workers are gone, the village is suddenly not crowded. For the villager old Mr Zhao, this is the best time of day. He sits outside the building he built himself, opens the front gate and invites people passing by to come rent the one room he has left. He has twenty rooms to rent in the building, and facing it across the street, five rooms in a one-story house. “I’m 70 years old, and have lived here all my life. My wife and I still live in this village, but our children have all moved away. We’re used to it here, and don’t think of moving away. We just stay to mind our buildings.”

At present migrant tenants made up 80 percent of the village population. The remaining 20% of villagers is mostly older people. The young people has gone to buy or rent rooms in the city. Mr Zhao says he gives most of the profit he gets from renting rooms to his children, “We two old people don’t spend that much on ourselves.” In the village there is only an internet café and a billiards hall, and no other recreational facilities. “Young people don’t want to live here. They go into the city, and don’t return.”

Mr Zhao said it cost him about 300,000 yuan to construct his building four years ago. Altogether he has 30 rooms to rent, and calculating his rental income and his costs, he has made 235,000 yuan a year. ($35,000 dollars)

This reporter found that in general rooms rent from between 400 to 800 yuan a month. In many cases the rooms are completely dark, with no sunlight getting in even on a clear day.

However, there is one section in Xiaojiahe of single-story residential buildings, which have all been built together in a uniform fashion, and are well-maintained and managed. In each building there are some fifteen families renting, amounting to a total of one hundred families in total in the whole section. A tenant said he works for a private company in Zhongguancun, and was one of the first to rent here. He said the landlord rents the land from the village and pays the village a yearly fixed amount, and has constructed the buildings to rent to workers. Since the rent is 650 yuan, he gets an initial income of 700 thousand yuan a year ($106,000).

A Xiaojiahe neighborhood committee staff member admitted that although there have been attempts to get villagers to stop building illegal buildings, they only stop work when being observed, then continue again afterwards. Since they can make a profit of 200,000 to 300,000 yuan thousand a year. (30 to 45 thousand dollars). However, these illegal buildings will not be part of the compensation package when the village relocates [only the original surface area of the home will be compensated for].

In the eyes of the villagers, the buildings they constructed give them an income which they will no longer have when the village is demolished, and they should be compensated for those buildings too. “In short, renting out these buildings is a business which produces a steady income year after year–without any losses.”

There are a number of other villages dispersed in nooks and crannies of the city which are driven by the market demand for cheap rents to transform themelves in the same way as Xiaojiahe.

At the end of last year, I participated in a project to survey Xiaojiahe shequ.


Xiaojiahe bus routes. It take twenty to thirty minutes to get to Zhongguancun.

Inside the village, besides the rooms for rent which the villagers have built themselves, there are in two places more specialized one-story housing built specifically to rent, as an investment. One was originally old-people’s housing that has been renovated, the other is a newly constructed development built where ducks used to be raised. I followed several college graduates who were doing their year of practical training as they looked for rooms to rent. I had not seen before these rows of standardized housing. But apart from rooms to live in, there are no other facilities. At dawn every morning there are long lines to use the public latrines.


one row of standardized housing


another development


college graduates waiting for the landlord


the inside of a room for rent

konjaku: it seems that some parts of Xiaojiahe were demolished, but other parts continued to function as before. This long, detailed article is a sensitive portrayal of Xiaojiahe after demolition –of surviving urban sections in which people continue to live, between high-rises and ruins, knowing that everything may be temporary.

Xiaojiahe: the A and B sides of an isolated island in the city

Portable buildings hidden in rubble, glimpsed from the expressway just inside the Fifth Ring, what remains of Xiaojiahe still has the maximum possible density of people that can crowd into the available space. There are all kinds of people here, not just northern floaters. The old and the young, permanent residents and migrants, the poor and the well-off: although their lives are interwoven, they live in two separate realities.

After the demolition and relocation, the Xiaojiahe shequ population shrank from 32,000 to 12,000 people. Although now more people packed into less space, the population ratio did not change substantially: residents and migrants were still at a 1:9 ratio, that is, an “inverted population ratio” in which there were ten times as many members of the floating population. Meandering inward from the 5th ring, the main road branches off into countless side roads, like branches and twigs from a tree, encompassing some 2200 or more families making a life here.


The village is like an old phonograph record with an A side and B side, with each side playing utterly different types of music.

Standing before a very short alley, a German shepherd guards the alley entrance, showing its teeth. Inside this alley ten meters long, five families live.

Wang Li is a full-time housewife. A graduate of a three year college, she married and now has a two-and-a-half year old son. Her twenty-something husband came to Beijing for temporary jobs, now they have opened a business together selling advertising billboards. Her husband often drives to far-off places to drum up business, so she has plenty of free time on her own.

In order that the family can spend time together, they all go in the car on deliveries.

Her son had made a line of several toy cars, and left them sitting there. A social worker, who visits families with children in the area, asked “Why don’t the cars move?” He answers, “They are stuck in a traffic jam.” Not yet three, and he already understands the concept of traffic jams.

In eight years, the rent has gone from 500 yuan a month to 1300. This increase of about three times is at the same pace as the rate of increase of China’s GDP, but this household of three is unable to keep up that pace. The one story house they rent still does not have a kitchen, or a bathroom, it is just ten square meters in all. A bunk bed takes up half the space, they store things on the top level and sleep on the bottom. Opposite that is a two square meter table on which they keep their tv and the rest of the personal items they use daily. Their door opens into a narrow corridor, in which barely two people can pass. From the eaves they hang washed clothes to dry, which they have to be careful not to knock down every time they go in and out.

When children of Xiaojiahe shequ reach school age, they can go to the village primary school, but Wang Li is thinking of taking her son back to her home town instead. She calculates that if she stays, it will cost 10,000 yuan year for nursery school and kindergarden, and 20,000 to 30,000 yuan (4600 dollars) to enter primary school. This is because of the necessity for gifts: “to enter Xiaojiahe Primary School you have to give the teachers a present, and enter through the back door.” Wang Li thinks it will be difficult to raise this much money. If she goes back to Hebei, they can save all the money they would have to pay on cash gifts, and the school fee is half as much. “Maybe we will go back home then.” But she hesitates: “The quality of education is better here in Beijing.” Also, she has read in books and on websites devoted to child rearing, that ‘it is better if the husband also participates in the child’s education, and when it’s a boy, the husband’s influence can be different from the mother’s.’

Beyond the rows of one-story houses, in one corner of Xiaojiahe shequ, there is a small two-story building. More than twenty families live here. Most are three-person families, but a few are couples with no children. Next to the staircase on the second floor, Wang Shuang lives with her family of four.

Compared to Wang Li, Wang Shuang seems more tired. She not only has to do all the housework, but she also must contribute to the family income. She works as a staffing go-between for a real estate company in Dongcheng. Her husband is a real estate seller. Her father-in-law works for the China Road and Bridge Corporation, and is away most of the year, while her mother-in-law lives at home, and does not work. Since there are three working and supporting the family, they are “worse off than some, but better off than others.”


Counting the time when she first came to Beijing to go to a three-year college starting in 2003, Wang Shuang has been here in the city for twelve years. Originally she is from Hengshui city, Anping county, Hebei province. Except for her, the other members of the family are now registered in Beijing. Originally they lived in Erlizhuang village (in Haidian) but moved to Xiaojiahe shequ when Erlixhuang was demolished.

“They say here is going to be demolished also, so we just live one day at a time.” Except that the road outside our house is not in good shape, Xiaojiahe in general is not bad. For the couple, transportation to their jobs is convenient, taking about one hour. They can afford to buy a small car, but because they have not won in the Beijing license plate lottery, they have put off buying. They live in a two room residence, with central heating. The heating works well, and the utility fee for it is 800 yuan a month.

Unlike Wang Li, Wang Shuang has her own kitchen and toilet. Her landlord provided beds, but Wang Shuang decided they were not of good quality and bought new beds to replace them. “We don’t think we’ll be living here for long, so we haven’t done anything else to fix this place up.” There’s no furniture except for two tables and a cabinet, and the walls are not painted. When they moved here they assumed it was temporary, and before they knew it nine years had passed.

The child of Wang Li and his small friends are growing up in this alley. They stare with curiosity at the stacks of charcoal honeycomb briquettes (for heating homes), and the fierce icicles on the eaves. From one year to another, they chase each other through the crowded alleyway, dodging the traffic, but eventually, they will be old enough to start school.

The Two Schools

Walking along the road, deeper into Xiaojiahe shequ, on all sides it is bleak and desolate. But exactly at noon several children appear, with flushed cheeks, and enthusiastically they point out the direction to their school. “Go straight on this road, and you’ll come to it. Our school is next to the Xiaojiahe Primary School.” The child who said this then took a breath, sucking up the mucus streaming out of his nose, and ran home for lunch. Soon the children re-emerged, and wearing cotton-padded clothes ran back to their school. There school is called Fenghua Aixin Xiwang primary school (Fengua, talent, Aixin, compassion, Xiwang, hope).

Fenghua School is not in a designated school site, but in a rented compound of buildings surrounded by a courtyard. The classrooms are simple, the walls unpainted. The exterior is painted with crude colorful paintings, to generate a warm atmosphere, but the paint is peeling. Children in muti-colored outfits running crazily around a large tree in the central courtyard, are not a bit shy of strangers. A stranger can readily join in their game, and chase and be chased. “Help me get away, Pangzi (fatty)! He is after me” they call out.



These children’s parents for the most part members of the floating population, who sell fruit at stalls on the road.

At noon the children line up in front of the library. Since the school is small, the library serves as their dining area. A ladleful of steaming potatoes goes in their bowls, and from the kitchen lady’s hand each receives one white steamed bun. “No matter what, we give them a good meal,” says the principal. This costs 160 yuan a month, which goes to paying the salaries of the kitchen staff. But perhaps not all the children find it tasty. One boy only eats half his bun, and when the teacher is not looking he upturns his bowl of potatoes into the garbage, then goes off in the direction of a snack shop.

Some children take their food to the classroom, others eat under the open sky. The ground still is still frozen, and some child slip and fall on icy patches. There are only one or two adults helping out, and sometimes they are too busy to manage everything.

The Fenghua school was started by a Ms Liang and her husband. Originally it was a child-care center. Ms Liang, who was working as a private tutor, saw that the Xiaojiahe Primary School did not admit the children of migrants, so she began teaching them, starting with five children. As the number of children increased, the Head of Xiaojiahe shequ saw the need for a new school, and in 1997 Ms Liang founded Fenghua School.

At present the threshold to get into the public school, Xiaojiahe Primary School, has been lowered, requiring only that applicants have made payments in the social insurance “five-in-one” (old age, medical, unemployment, industrial injury, and child-bearing), and social security. But still the enrollment in Fenghua School has steadily increased. The school has ten classes, and there are more than fifty students in each class. Although the students may come to Fenghua school by different routes, most have one thing in common: they are not entered into the national school registry. Until recently, Fenghua School was not a recognized school in the school system, and graduates had to face the same requirements (proof that they paid social insurance) to get into middle school as needed for Xiajiahe Primary School. Students pay 2000 yuan for each semester.

There are eleven teachers, and five other staff members, making sixteen in all. The certified teachers, who make 2000 yuan a month, are mostly female, recruited through (a classified ads website). The teachers start class at 7:20 in the morning, and the students are let out at 3:30. The teachers teach the main subjects– reading and writing, math, and English –in the morning, and the afternoon classes are taught by volunteers. “There are many college students who come and help us. We provide them with lesson plans.” These volunteers come from elite colleges and universities in Beijing — Beijing University, Minzu University of China, China Woman’s University, etc. “Without these volunteers helping with the workload, our teachers would be overwhelmed.”

He Yuping, who started in 2006, is considered the school’s “senior teacher.” He is the one in charge when the principal is not there. On work days, he lives in a room just ten meters square in the school office, sparsely furnished. The lock to the door is broken, and anyone with a wire could easily force their way in and steal the school’s valuable equipment: a laptop computer and a monitor for the school’s three security cameras.

Xiaojiahe Primary School and Fenghua School are separated from each other by one building, but to the students, they are in two different worlds.

While the road in front of Xiaojiahe Primary School’s front gate has turned into a pool of mud after last night’s rain, its freshly painted red walls and black entrance gate are imposing.


He Jiahao,a third-grader, is from a Hebei family. He went to Fenghua for first grade, but then transferred here. Like the other students, he wears a green and white uniform, with a red Young Pioneer’s scarf. When asked how the facilities are, he answers, “Great!” He says they fix up and repaint the classrooms after every semester. The classrooms have two air-conditioners –one on front and one in back — an electric fan, and central heating in the winter. They are also outfitted with the latest media equipment. Besides the usual course of studies, the students also have extra-curricular activities such as learning to play the hulusi (gourd flute), do dakuaiban (oral storytelling accompanied by wooden clappers), play soccer, or sing in chorus. Every semester they have field trips to museums, or other such places. As a school official said. “Under the blue sky, they grow up together.” In this school the children of migrants can enjoy the same education as Beijing schoolchildren.

At present Xiaojiahe Primary School has 1189 children, of which 23 are from Beijing permanent resident families. The rest, 98 percent, comes from the floating population. A School staff member explained: “We are a state-run school. The State Education Commission has stipulated that we cannot separate resident children from migrant children. If they come to the school to apply, we explain the procedure and let them know they have equal rights to an education under the national policy.” Starting in 2011, the Haidian State Education Commission promised that if migrant families transacted admissions procedures, their children could attend public schools on a temporary basis, without paying an extra fee. This has brought about criticism from some resident families.

In 2014 Beijing city introduced a new policy of school district partitioning. When Xiaojiahe became one of the district schools [drawing students from a wide area around it], some were shocked, because the neighborhood around it is so dilapidated. After families went to look at the school, internet sites were flooded with complaints from residents. How could their precious children be sent to such a place? A school spokesperson responded,” Yes, there are some problems. But we will not deny migrant children the right to get what you want for your own families –a good education. They too deserve the nine-year compulsory education.”

When school ends, the children come pouring out, then stand around in groups of two or three, talking. Their parents are busy with work, they must make their way home by themselves. Fortunately, they know these narrow streets well.

The Two Clinics

Wang Li’s son, Qi Zeyang, is always in her thoughts. Besides the necessities of daily life and school fees, there are other unexpected expenses. When Qi Zeyang has a cold for several days, they take him to the regular clinic, and they usually want to do an x-ray and give him intravenous fluids. In the most severe case. Qi Zeyang was hospitalized for ten days, and the bill was 9000 yuan, including hormones and nutritional supplements. Even with the 1000 yuan medical expense subsidy, this was hard for them to pay. However, this does not mean Wang Li is willing to take her child to be seen at the “black clinic.” She would rather get along, with the family tightening its belt for a while. But in Xiaojiahe shequ, the majority of people are different from Wang Li, and they are prefer going to the black clinic. Not only are the medicines cheaper, but one can have an intravenous treatment, which causes minor illnesses to be cured faster –and the patient then loses less time and money away from work.

Going further down the main road, a green sign draws one’s attention to the “Shixiangling Outpatient Clinic.” Through the window, one can look in and see several patients having intravenous drip treatments. The clinic is not large, with just one attendant. There are two doctors who alternate mornings and afternoons, and not enough nurses. At the entrance there is posted an add for a nurse, “Need for several nurses, salary to be negotiated.” When this reporter asked about the need for nurses and the doctors’ qualifications, the doctor on duty spoke with caution. “We are not the only black clinic around here — why don’t you go ask at one of the others?”

Although they always take their child to the regular clinic, when Wang Li or her husband have a minor illness, they go to the black clinic. “The doctors there have a good reputation, and you don’t have to wait in line to have lab tests in order to get a prescription. ” This saves them time. Even though they have medical insurance if they go to the regular clinic, “the insurance refund is not that much.”

Because there is an agreement on the district level that illegal clinics cannot operate in buildings zoned as residential homes, this clinic is inside a compound managed by the village committee, not by the residential district. It is safe as long as the village committee does not report it to the higher authorities.

The regular clinic is on the main road, crowded with traffic, in a one-story building shared with the offices of the neighborhood committee. Here the patients are far fewer. At ten in the morning, there is no one having an intravenous drip. “Many migrants come, saying they have a cold and want an intravenous infusion. We tell them it won’t work, and may have adverse side-effects, and that they should just take cold medicine. Then they leave, and go over there” (to the black clinic). The doctor said there is nothing she can do.With an intravenous treatment, one is more likely to have an allergic reaction, therefore it shouldn’t be used for things like colds. “If there is an oral medication, you don’t need an injection. If there is an appropriate injection, than you don’t need intravenous infusions. This is our principle.” This is a WHO guideline, which informs their practice. The doctors on the staff rotate between different clinics, the nurse is a graduate of a three-year college.

The antibiotic cephalosporin costs 22 yuan at that the black clinic, 22 yuan at the regular clinic. “Our drugs meet the national standard, but over there you have only their word. Our drugs are produced by Tong Ren Tang (China’s largest pharmaceutical company), if you look at the batch numbers of their drugs, you can tell they are counterfeit. When migrants come here, they don’t want to pay the registration fee of fifty cents, so they go over there instead. As for the drugs, ours would cost the same if they had a health insurance card and could get a refund, but as migrants, they don’t have the card (supplied by employers to regular employees) and have to pay full price.”

In the next half-hour three patients came to the regular clinic to have a prescription filled, and they all had a health insurance card. One of these, a 60 year old Beijing “uncle” said,, “I have a chronic condition, so I come here often to have my prescription filled — I live close by, so its very convenient.” Asked if he would go to the other clinic if this was was closed, he answered, “Absolutely not!” But migrants living in the area like Wang Li, don’t consider this regular clinic as being for them. In their minds it is “too costly” and “for residents only.” Even if the neighborhood committee began publicizing this clinic with a slogan like “Equal healthcare for all,” it is unlikely this would change the firm image which is set in their minds, and which they will pass down to the next generation. Considered this way, the regular clinic cannot escape its own “sickness.”

The weather gets colder, and at the entrance to the laundry opposite the neighborhood committee office, dirty water that has spilled out into the street congeals into ice. On the street people wrapped in cotton-padded clothes try to hurry, but make their way cautiously. The dumplings restaurant proprietor happily anticipates good business –there is nothing better on a day like today than a hot bowl of steaming dumplings. When his seventeen year old son comes home at noon for lunch, his wife hurries the boy inside –”it’s cold out there” –and brings him a bowl of dumplings. There are just a few tables, and on the menu on the wall, the prices have been rubbed out and changed several times.

The husband and wife when run the dumpling store came from te northeast 15 years ago. When they first came, they thought there are many opportunities to succeed in Beijing. They started with a twenty square meter store, selling dumplings and other northeastern dishes, and after a while they thought they could move to a thirty square meter store.

Because nearby is the construction site of replacement housing for the villagers, for several years the workers from that project come to eat lunch, and business had been good. But the buildings were quickly finished, and now there are fewer customers. “Usually a business like this makes 100000 yuan a year ($15,400 ), but last year we made twice that. But when you earn a lot, you spend a lot– life in Beijing is expensive, and the New Year’s holiday is a time when you spend a lot.”

Their prices are low. Thirty meat- and vegetable-filled dumplings are 14 yuan, vegetarian dumplings are 8 yuan. “Because we use only the best ingredients, our son loves the meat-filled dumplings.” The wife’s voice is gentle with affection. Their son is studying animation at Beijing Information Science School. They are thinking of sending him home to go to a regular senior middle school, but he wants to stay in Beijing, where his friends are, and attend an occupational middle school. The parents say they are willing to respect his choice. He came with them to Beijing when he was two years old, and he has only been back home for New Year’s once a year since then. When he speaks he doesn’t have the accent of his hometown, but rather the speech of Beijing alleyways.

If Wang Li’s son doesn’t go back with his mother to Hebei to start school but stays here in Beijing, when he becomes seventeen, he’ll be just like this boy. in love with the city brimming with opportunities and challenges. There are many hundreds here, like Wang Li and Wang Shuang, At dawn they get up and walk out of the long alley into the cramped streets, at night they crawl back and curl up in a narrow bed. Like Wang Shuang, they cannot help but sigh and think, “I never thought I would live here this long.”

































Village # 13 Houying

konjaku: Village #13 is Houying village in the Haidian district. Here are some photographs taken by “Zhongguancun” taken in 2010.



The village partially demolished


The banner reads in part, “Leave behind the dirty messy and bad Houying, and move to multi-story residential buildings.”


According to the following government notice, Houying village will become part of the green zone, and the residents will be compensated according to the “Beiwu model.” Apparently Houying villagers will be able to move into replacement housing near the old village site. Perhaps there will also be some commercial development on the edge of the green zone, and, following the Beiwu model, the villagers will be shareholders receiving some portion of the profits.


Concerning the 50 listed-up villages in Beijing, in Haidian this actually involves eight mapped-out areas in comprising 20 natural villages. These eight areas are:

Dongshengxiang Bajia village area 八家村片区
Shijiqing town Zhenxing shequ area 四季青镇振兴社区片区
Mentou village area 门头村社区片区
Zhongwu village area 中坞村片区
Liulangzhuang village area 海淀乡六郎庄村片区、
Xiaojiahe village area 肖家河社区片区
Houying village area 后营村片区
Tangjialing village area 西北旺镇唐家岭片区

These eight areas in total comprise 998.36 hectares (one hectare is about the size of a baseball field), with 29,000 permanent residents, and 211,800 members of the floating population. These eight areas are on the periphery of the Zhongguancun National Demonstration Zone (Zhongguancun Science Park). A large quantity of illegal buildings have sprung up, as many migrants have collected here, bringing about a related set of problems in public security, the environment, traffic, and fire prevention.
Haidian District has set up a district-level leadership office. They have set up a building plan, a guaranteed capital fund, an employment placement office, a media and public relations outlet, a secure and stable construction labor group, supervisory and management functions, an inspection process, an information and feedback channel, and an established division of responsibility among the three levels of district, town and village, coordinating all job departments.

The urban redevelopment project has adopted four models: the format for Bajia village will be land held in reserve for urban development. The plan calls for 58 hectares of land designated for this purpose: 330,000 square meters for replacement housing on the village site, and 120,000 square meters for village and town industry (mix of agriculture and commerce), improving housing conditions for the residents. Xiaojiahe shequ and Zhongwu village will be a major priority project of relocation housing: 120,000 square meters will go to replacement housing for villagers, 60,000 for commercial development, and 380,000 square meters will go to construct housing for Beijing University faculty, the result of a contract between Haidian district and Beijing University signed in 2009-12.

The villages of Liulangzhuang, Houying, and Tangjialing will become part of the green zone, and the villagers will exchange their homesteads for new residences according to the “Beiwu model.” Zhenxing shequ and Mentoucun shequ will adopt the “one village –one policy” model.

When the Haidian district transformation of these eight areas is completed, 140 hectares will become part of the green zone, and 120 hectares will be used for Qinghua University and Beijing University building projects, as well as area devoted to the South to North Water Diverting Project. Accelerating intensive use of the land, the approximately 10 square kilometers of the urban-rural transformation zone will take on an entirely new look. The quality of life of the common people will be improved, upgrading the collective economy will be sped up, and the environment of the central area of the Zhongguancun Creative Demonstration Zone will go one step further in quality.

land held in reserve ( “urban district land in joint reserve”) 市区土地联储
(message board for local leaders)

Secretary Zhao, Hello! There are eight village-areas that will be transformed this year (in Haidian district), and among these one is the village in which my home is, Houying shequ. How will the transformation process work? For the original villages, what is the plan? We will move back to new multi-story residences on the old village site, then how will we earn a livelihood?

No reply yet

According to reports, the Houying village land that will be used for construction of replacement housing (the villagers will live at or near the old village site) has now been completely cleared. This year, construction will also begin for Liulangzhuang villagers at the old village site.

Following the demolition of Tangjialing, the floating population in the Zhongguancun area drfited to Liulangzhuang. But within this year all residents of Liulangzhuang will move out, and the village will be demolished. At the end of the year, the 4600 residents will move into the New Village. According to what is known, Liulangzhuang New Village will be in Houying north village, about 6 kilometers from the old village.


Village #12 Zhengxing shequ

konjaku: Village # 12 in the Haidian district is Zhenxing shequ. Shequ ( literally, “community”) here replaces the designation of village. Since this is not about shequ as such, I continue to use the term village, for convenience.

I was only able to find the following article, which is not about the village (or shequ) as a whole, but about the problems of negotiating compensation experienced by businesses that have rented land in the villages slated for redevelopment. Usually the focus in demolishing a village is on the relocation and compensation of the village residents, not the businesses that just happen to be in the village because they have leased some land and built a factory or a production center.

In urban renovation on this scale, involving fifty villages, possibly it is just not feasible to completely compensate every business for all moving costs, loss of facilities, and the suspension of doing business while they relocate. But this article assumes it is possible and takes the position that it is the government’s responsibility. It criticizes “village autonomy,” which, as we have seen, was a major part of the Beiwu model, as a way that villagers could be assured of a say in the process, and receive a share of the profits from future development on village land. While that seems a good thing for village residents, the implications to all parties involved is unclear. To start with, it is not clear to anyone how much autonomy there is or should be in “village autonomy.”

The renovation projects are going faster than the determination of laws or rules to govern the process. But if you are transforming large sections of society in one fell swoop from one situation (village life) to a completely different one ( multi-story complexes surrounded by a green zone) could any set of laws or regulations cover every eventuality of the transition?

Village redevelopment in the Beijing suburbs: “Village autonomy” is driving out lessees
–Law specialists say a public hearing process is needed


photo: The Zhengxing village committee headquarters in 2008 (pre-demolition, photo by Zhongguancun)


This reporter went to the listed up villages project office, and discovered that because of disputes over compensation rates between the village government and the businesses which have rented land from the villages operating within the redevelopment project zone, some villages governments are, under the pretext of exercising “village autonomy,” forcibly driving out tenants.

In recent years our country has energetically expanded the project of transforming old villages. However, land requisition has increasingly triggered more and more contradictions and clashes. In some places the manner of requisitioning land goes against regulations, and violates the rights of villagers and businesses which are renting the land. This leads to appeals to higher authorities, and other sorts of incidents. According to many specialists interviewed by this reporter, the process of requisitioning land in our country lacks an adequate public hearing process. In determining compensation rates, there should be an independent scientific evaluation as part of the process, and after disputes arise, the aggrieved parties lack a communication channel in the government to appeal to for justice. Thus it is extremely easy for conflicts to arise. Gradually these lacks in the system must be filled in, to protect the interests of all those involved.

Beginning in 2010, Beijing city announced the tranformation of 50 “listed-up villages,” and one of these was Zhenxing shequ in Shijiqing town in Haidian district. In the 6th month of that year, the Zhenxing village committee issued a notice informing all businesses in the affected area that they had to move out by the end of the 9th month. At the beginning of 2011, the village committee posted a notice describing the area to be demolished, and demanding that all village households within the affected area sign contracts agreeing to relocate and assenting to the compensation amount. But the announcement said nothing about the businesses and what sort of compensation they might expect.

The Shiji Tianyuan Food Corporation is a family-owned business. They signed a lease with the village corporation for a one-acre site for 30 years. The lease expires in 2026. After signing the lease, the Shiji tanyuan Food Corporation used its own capital to build a factory. After receiving the demolition notice, they stopped taking orders, and began to negotiate the compensation details, as well as preparing to move. But what the company head Ren Changru could not imagine, was that the village representative would only offer to return a few years of rent, plus moving expenses of 600,000 yuan. Ren Changru calculated the loss to his business from moving to be 15 to 20 million yuan. After negotiations through mediators, the village offered 3 million yuan, and said it couldn’t go any higher.

In the 50 listed-up villages, the land occupied by homesteads is 12 square kilometers, but that occupied by businesses –township and village enterprises — is 13 square kilometers.


Ren Changru did not accept the village compensation proposal, and now the negotiations are at a standstill, having been referred to a higher authority. Meanwhile, the Zhenxing redevelopment project is moving along vigorously. New multi-story buildings are sprouting out of the ground, and the villagers are giving up their homes and waiting to move in to these new buildings.

Ren Changru does not understand why the government doesn’t have a unified, consistent compensation standard, announced publicly for all to see. Instead, Zhenxing shequ repeatedly says this is a matter of village autonomy, “and whatever the village decides is what you get.” It is clear to him that negotiating with the village is not going anywhere, after many attempts.

The law on village autonomy stipulates that villagers have the authority to determine their own interests, including compensation. Told this, Ren Changru says there is a still a problem with Zhenxing’s actions, because they have not publicly announced anything whatever about how they are deciding on compensations, whether they have actually had an assembly to discuss these issues, what their guidelines are, and what evidence or testimony they consider in making determinations.

The other day a reporter interviewed the Zhenxing Redevelopment Project deputy, to get the village committee’s side of the dispute. The deputy said, at present there is definitely not any such unified compensation standard, but that a “higher authority” (indicating the Shijiqing town urban transformation project corporation), had transmitted the general sentiment that “the one responsible for the child is the parent” (taking the buildings and assets as the child, it is the business that built them that is responsible for them, not the village), and that they should literally reimburse businesses for the total amount of payments the business had made in the past to the village, and no more. To follow this guideline, Zhenxing shequ put out bids to hire an independent assessor, and plans to give the assessment corporation the responsibility to estimate the amount of the compensation payment.

As this reporter has come to find out, having talks with lessees to requisition their land back, in the name of village autonomy, is just another complication in an already complicated process, and leads to disputes almost every time.

To get a response on the Zhenxing shequ position, this reporter interviewed a lawyer who is a specialist in this area, and he said that the disagreement between the Shiji Tianyuan Food Corporation and Zhenxing shequ was essentially a contract dispute, and Zhenxing was trying to confuse the issue by taking it as a matter of compensation determined by the stipulations of the redevelopment project. The issue in this: when the contract is in force, and one side wants to terminate it prematurely, what are its obligations? If the contract is not a comprehensive document, if there is nothing in the contract about what to do in case of a demolition and relocation project, then one must look at the basic principles of contract law to determine both sides’ duties and obligations.

The lawyer, Li Yan said, “To put it very simply, if you rent land to me, and I build a building on that land to produce goods or operate a business; and if, before the lease has expired, you want to dissolve the contract, you should compensate me for the loss of the building, for any facilities added to the building, for equipment, etc,. But these forms of compensation have nothing to with compensation as determined in the redevelopment project, but are solely concerned with the losses experienced by the lessee because of a premature termination of the contract.”

Li Yan believes that the fact that Zhenxing shequ is using “village autonomy” as a reason to force the businesses to move, is a sign that possibly the government has not issued permission to demolish the buildings. In this listed-up villages project, there are no exact legal stipulations that cover the demolishing and relocation process. Therefore, in the past authorities at the grassroots level have sought out interrelated businesses and negotiated a compensation amount with these businesses that are within the redevelopment zone together. In such cases, the vast majority comply voluntarily. If Zhenxing shequ wants its businesses to move away, it should offer them a rationally acceptable compensation rate.

According to another lawyer, Wang Yong, in general, the compensation paid to businesses is far higher than that paid to residents, because they are reimbursed for their investment in buildings and equipment on the property. Therefore, for Zhenxing shequ to claim, “the one responsible for the child is the parent,” is to go against the law. They should follow their duty and pay back any remaining sums under the contract and a reasonable compensation.To do anything less is not equitable, and not within the spirit of the original contract.

Li Yan said the Shiji Tianyuan Food Corporation has the option to take Zhenxing shequ to court for breach of contract. Many other law specialists contacted by this reporter said, our county lacks a public hearing procedure that should be part of the process of requisitioning land. In compensation negotiations, there should be an independent and scientific means of evaluating claims. When disputes arise, peasants and businesses do not have an agency in the government to appeal to, and lack a way for the administration of justice to operate.

listed up villages 挂账村
Zhenxing 振兴
shequ 社区
village and township enterprises乡镇企业