Rural poverty in China’s northwest is anything but a new topic. But those who want to see it for themselves may find it increasingly hard as the government ramps up efforts to conceal it – literally.
Brick walls have been erected along the highways of Zhang county, located in Gansu province’s Dingxi City, to “hide” the “ugly” living conditions of villagers inhabiting the lands, the People’s Daily reported on Monday.
The walls, divided into individual sections each measuring two metres high, four metres long and encompassing 5 kilometres of road across the Zhang county badlands, began construction in October this year as a “poverty-alleviating, repair project”, according to villagers interviewed.
“This is supposed to be it,” said one villager surnamed Qi. If there was another poverty-alleviation project around, Qi hadn’t heard of it.
“We think the main purpose of this wall is to block the view of farmers’ ugly houses,” he added
Another villager said: “The officials told us they would help repair some of the villagers’ exterior walls but I’m sure it was just to block out the view of our pigs and chickens.”
After paying a visit to the Zhang County's party headquarters, a local propaganda chief impatiently dismissed claims by a reporter that a 5-kilometre-long wall could have been built under the government’s watch.
“We know of no such project,” he said. “Approval of such a project did not pass through us – only the township level officials would know.”
Another official interviewed at the bureau was much more candid.
“This is part of the 212 national road improvement and beautification project,” he said. “The purpose is to make the road look good.”