Uniform Hainan housing divides the online community

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 April, 2013, 9:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 April, 2013, 9:05pm

A photograph showing nearly a thousand identical villas in Hainan has drawn a flurry of debate over rural housing development in China’s cyber sphere.

The photograph was published by writer Liang Hong on microblogging platform Sina Weibo on Sunday. She commented in the post under the photo: “A bunch of brand-new prisons without space or privacy…China is turning into a desperate nightmare. Wherever you go, you see the same thing.”

The houses shown in the photograph are from Lingshui county in Hainan Island in the South China Sea. According to a media report, the local government has redeveloped the houses of over 3,500 villagers in the region into over 900 brand-new houses in a smaller area. The houses were built for free for the 941 households with each consisting of three floors and measuring over 253 square metres.

Liang’s photo had drawn more than 2,000 comments as of Monday afternoon. Many of her followers’ comments appeared to echo her own, despising the poorly designed layout of the villas.

One blogger said they “Look like a cemetery. No green belt, no fire passage. How would a fire engine enter the community in case of fire?”

Another blogger agreed, “It doesn’t look like a village or a city, lacking a thriving atmosphere.”

Another said, “We are losing home, culture, and humanity to standardisation.”

Some others even called it a concentration camp and cultivation base because of the buildings’ high-density distribution.

But there were also many online users who praised the new government houses.

“They may not look good, but at least standardised buildings are cheap and reliable,” said one user.

Another also said, “The new houses will provide much better living conditions than the traditional buildings.”

Some bloggers even bashed those who despised the community. “A bunch of city residents who live in 80-square-metre homes are saying villagers who live in 220-square-metre homes lack freedom.”

Yet one online user took a neutral stand, “I think only the villagers living in the villas have the right to judge them, not bystanders like us.”

On a post Liang published later on Monday afternoon, she explained it was not the rural development she opposed. “There is no doubt that local villagers would be delighted to see their lives improved. But it does not cover the fact they are modularised, concentrated and lack character.”