Since March, thousands of farmers in China’s Shandong province have had their homes demolished at short notice under a plan to move them into new, modern homes.
Those who refused to sign agreements for the demolition were detained. The demolition took place before relocation, so people were forced to look for their own temporary housing while their houses were being built. Some of the displaced with nowhere else to go built makeshift housing on the edge of their fields.
The Shandong case is an extreme example of what has been going on under various policies to modernise China’s rural areas – which include building new, larger, planned communities for farmers so that public goods can be delivered to them more efficiently while freeing up more land for farming and other uses – but which have adverse consequences.
As compensation for their demolished homes tends to be low and the new homes are expensive, farmers often incur huge debts for smaller homes in multi-storey buildings that have no space for their farm tools. Some find themselves moved to communities so far away from their farms that they have to give up farming altogether and look for jobs elsewhere, or if they are aged, depend on their small pensions and remittances from their children working in the cities.