Doomed art village group takes battle to the top

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 12:00am

Holdouts facing eviction from site of University City demand more damages

Villagers facing eviction to make way for Guangzhou's University City on Xiaoguwei Island are again taking their case to Beijing after the local government refused to agree to their compensation demands.

'We are not the type to protest but they have violated our rights,' said Zhao Yaodong , who is in the construction business. 'They did not consult us ... they have behaved like thugs, like political bullies.'

Thirty inhabitants of the so-called 'artists' village' flew to Beijing on Tuesday to bring their complaints to the Construction Ministry and the major media.

They also went to the capital in November and wrote letters to Premier Wen Jiabao , Guangdong party boss Zhang Dejiang and Governor Huang Huahua .

Despite that effort, one house was demolished on July 9 before agreement on compensation was reached, the villagers claimed. Another batch of houses is scheduled to be torn down early next month. The land is needed to make way for a road to the university and to strengthen a dyke.

Of the 161 villas belonging to artists, lawyers, academics, architects, landscape designers, interior decorators and retired cadres, 124 have been razed after their owners accepted compensation. But the remaining villagers have dug in their heels.

'We want a new survey of the value of our properties. We want them to follow the law on the Administration of Urban Real Estate in compensating us,' said another villager, Chen Li .

The villagers said the government was offering them 3,100 yuan per square metre for homes that they designed and built themselves and gardens that they had nurtured for years.

'The compensation won't be enough to buy a house half the size of my present house, let alone land for the garden. But it's not just a question of money. We have put in a lot to build our home,' said Huang Zhifeng .

The villagers also questioned the independence of the survey company.

The villagers failed to hire their own surveyors. 'As soon as [surveyors] heard it's University City, they refused to touch it,' Mr Zhao said.

Yang Heping , deputy director of Guangzhou Land Development Centre, which is in charge of the Xiaoguwei relocation, defended the selection of the surveyor. Companies had submitted bids online and the compensation offered was fair, he said.

'It's all about location. This island had no facilities whatsoever. You can't compare with prices of villas in good locations with full amenities,' he said.

Mr Yang said the government could not give residents land for new villas because of a nationwide freeze on land use approvals.

Mr Yang said the land development centre had held extensive negotiations with Xiaoguwei home owners and given them ample demolition notice.

University City is set to open in September with a freshman class of 37,000.



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