Ancient village resists developer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2011, 12:00am

Thirty residents in a 700-year-old village in Shenzhen, many of them Hongkongers, are being confronted by a developer who blocked roads and cut water and electricity supplies in an attempt to clear their homes for redevelopment.

The stand-off between the villagers and guards hired by the developer was still going on last night. A few villagers were slightly injured in occasional clashes. They are the last to stay on in the historical Gangxia village in Futian district, claiming that the development is illegal.

'We are just struggling with our last breath, we are the only ones who can still withstand the disturbance mentally,' said a villager, 30, who identified himself by the surname Man. He said he had been living in fear for several years as the village suffered one disruption after another.

The villagers, all bearing the surname Man, or Wen in Putonghua, share the same ancestor as some of Hong Kong's indigenous residents.

Gangxia, which lies at the heart of the urban district, was once a strong community with thousands of people, including more than 1,000 with Hong Kong residency. It was built 700 years ago by an army created by scholar-general hero Wen Tianxiang in the southern Song dynasty.

Residents began moving out several years ago as redevelopment took place in half of the village. Either they could not stand the disturbance of the land seizures or they received millions in compensation. Many buildings were demolished.

'It is not about money,' Man said. 'Our village definitely has our own ability to redevelop. It is about justice. It's our land. It's an issue related to our descendants and not something money can resolve.'

He said the government named a developer without any open tender. Two of the villagers were admitted to hospital last year after they were beaten by triad members as they campaigned against land seizures. 'This is really outrageous. I am not rich but I never worry about meals ... We are not like those who leave after receiving millions in compensation.'