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Communities Destroyed

July 20, 2011

Time Is a Witness. Xincheng District, Xian, Shaanxi Province, April and October 2009. Photos by Liu Weifu.

Photographer’s Note: The former “People’s Pleasure Garden” has neither people nor pleasure anymore. These photographs show an area before (in April) and after (in October) it was demolished. They are the true portraits of the helpless existence that shantytown dwellers find themselves in today.

Time Is a Witness. Xincheng District, Xian, Shaanxi Province, April and October 2009. Photos by Liu Weifu.

Time Is a Witness. Xincheng District, Xian, Shaanxi Province, April and October 2009. Photos by Liu Weifu.

Time Is a Witness. Xincheng District, Xian, Shaanxi Province, April and October 2009. Photos by Liu Weifu.

A Farm Demolished. Minhang District, Shanghai, March 16, 2010. Photo by Shen Peilan.

Photographer’s Note: On March 16, 2010, government authorities in Minhang District took me to a hotel and locked me in a room. Later, more than 200 police officers in more than ten police vehicles accompanied demolition workers and razed the farm that I had operated for more than two decades. During the demolition, our tenants were forced out of their homes, and their personal belongings, money, and even their motorcycles were buried under the rubble. The entire demolition took less than 30 minutes.

Editors’ Note: For more information on Shen Peilan, see: http://www.hrichina.org/content/384.

Trash Disaster. Maoming, Guangdong Province, October 11, 2010. Photo by Chen Zhendong.

Photographer’s Note: The area near the bridge at the end of Dongfeng Street in Genzi Township, Gaozhou County, was turned into a trash dump by the local government. The trash has clogged up the river, ruined our fields, and polluted the underground drinking water for local residents. Both villagers and the townspeople have complained to the Gaozhou Environmental Protection Bureau many times, but the corrupt bureaucrats not only ignored the complaints but also threatened and cracked down on the people who were defending their rights. They used the Genzi Township police officers to intimidate the people nonstop, and even used inhuman retaliatory measures.

I reported them to the Environmental Protection Bureau. I didn’t know that they would use some pretext to lock me away in a Gaozhou jail for more than three months. They only let me out after my family gave them a 120,000-yuan [$18,447] “red envelope.” The farmlands are destroyed, and there was still this injustice we had to stomach. Only a few meters in a 30-meter long river are clear. We are facing a disaster. Who will have pity on the ordinary people of this town?

A Burial at the World’s Largest Landfill. Huangmengying Village, Shenqiu County, Henan Province, July 16, 2004. Photo by Du Bin.

Photographer’s Note: This was the burial of a man from a small village in the upper reaches of the Huai River who died of cancer caused by polluted water. He was among more than a hundred villagers who died from unnatural causes. His family tried to use the funeral to get the authorities to pay attention to disasters wrought by misshapen economic development. A relative of the deceased said, “Every family has someone who is ill.”

Thousands of factories in central China use the Huai River as a giant sewer. The 150 million people along its banks face shortages of water sources and potable water. Many villagers develop all sorts of illnesses from drinking and using the polluted water and the death toll is continuously rising. But those in power have yet to adopt effective measures to control pollution.