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PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 3:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 6:26pm

What has Li Chuncheng ‘the demolisher’ done to Chengdu?

More details surfaced about the anti-graft investigation of Sichuan’s deputy party secretary Li Chuncheng.

BIO

Amy Li began her journalism career as a crime news reporter in Queens, New York, in 2004. She joined Reuters in Beijing in 2008 as a multimedia editor. Amy taught journalism at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu before joining SCMP in Hong Kong in 2012. She is now an online news editor for SCMP.com. Amy can be reached at chunxiao.li@scmp.com, or follow her on Twitter @AmyLiSCMP
 

More details surfaced about the anti-graft investigation of Sichuan’s deputy party secretary Li Chuncheng. China’s Legal weekly reported on Tuesday on his alleged corruption involving construction projects in Sichuan.

Reading the news, my friends from the provincial capital Chengdu, where Li had worked over 10 years – first as mayor and then as deputy party secretary – said what Li did during his term finally made sense.

Li, whose fist name is “Chuncheng”, meaning “spring city” in Chinese, is referred by locals jokingly as “Chaicheng”. The sound is similar, but the meaning is quite the opposite. “Chaicheng” means “demolish the city,” which is exactly what Li managed to achieve during the past 10 years.

Li managed to demolish some of the most distinct and culturally rich neighbourhoods in Chengdu, locals say, before the government then sold the lands to developers – who turned them into soulless and expensive modern blocks. This is the so-called “Old Town Improvement” project Li has prided himself on.

But Li, who had allegedly bribed his way to the top post in Chengdu, may have raked in billions of yuan from those construction projects in Chengdu, said the Legal Weekly.

Lives have been lost during his campaign to tear down older neighbourhoods to make way for modern development.

The then 47-year-old Tang Fuzhen, a Chengdu resident who desperately tried to protect her house from armed demolition crew who forced their way into the building, set herself on fire in a protest in 2009, dying in front of her neighbours, demolishion crew, the police and firefighters.

The tragedy was recorded by a neighbour using mobile phone and widely reported by national media.

Many locals believe Li should be held accountable for Tang’s death.

Li is also believed to have enraged former Premier Wen Jiabao who arrived in Chengdu to inspect the earthquake stricken areas in 2008, by showing off the luxury “Bird’s Nest” office building he had built and intended to move in, said reports.

After media reported the controversial building in 2008, Li sold the “Bird’s Nest” building to private companies in Chengdu.

People who work in the building have since complained that the building is designed in a way that only fit government offices. Many say they had to move in because it was an offer from the government.

“We cannot undo what Li has done to Chengdu,” said Judy Zhai, a resident and writer in Chengdu. “I am more concerned about the current party secretary who is scarier,” she said on her Weibo, referring to Huang Xingchu, the current party secretary of Chengdu. Huang has started even larger infrastructure construction projects since he took over this year.

Many locals believe the city’s environment is quickly deteriorating because of excessive construction and worry about the unchecked power of party leaders.

”How can we stop them from destroying the city?” said Zhai.

 

Update: the Legal Weekly has withdrawn  the story from its website on Wednesday afternoon for reasons unknown.

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