[full article] Washington Post: Disneyland project in Shanghai spotlights forced evictions in ChinaSHANGHAI -- It took years and all of the family's life savings, but in 2008, retiree Wang Quanlin finally completed his dream home. It was spacious, two stories with an attic, and had new furnishings inside.
Then last fall came an unexpected notice from the Shanghai city government. The entire area had been slated for a new development project -- a Disneyland theme park. The Wang family would have to move, and their house would be demolished.
The Wangs' uphill legal battle to stay in their home, or to get what they consider fair compensation, is about to end. The government is set to turn over the land in July for the $3.5 billion Disney project, and the family -- having exhausted its protests and appeals -- will be relocated to two much smaller apartments.
"We support Disneyland, but we hate these forced demolitions," said Wang's son, Wang Yuchen, 30, who took a leave of absence from his job as an engineer to fight the eviction. "The whole process is unfair. It's unequal."
...... In Wuhan, west of Shanghai in Hubei province, a farmer named Yang Youde became a local media sensation when he built a cannon, stuffed it with fireworks and fired it at a team sent to evict him from the farmland he leased. Last year, several people were reported to have set themselves on fire when eviction teams arrived to remove them. And this year, homeowners have clashed with demolition squads, which often resort to tactics such as cutting off water and electricity to holdouts' homes.
It’s easy to forget that peoples lives are being compromised by the Disney corporation’s second theme park foray in China. In the construction of all previous Disney parks, I don’t think there has ever been an instance where the people’s homes were displaced because the local government imposed forced evictions. EuroDisney opened in the rural outskirts of Paris (all the French people that complained of EuroDisney being “cultural imperialism”? Look at China. This is worse.), and parks that opened in densely populated cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong were built on reclaimed land from the bay.
After the failure that is the Hong Kong park and recent moves to downsize the Shanghai resort, is this all really necessary? If it means infiltrating a growing market as quickly as possible for the Disney empire, I guess so.
I’m surprised that environmentalists raised such a controversy in the international media about shark fin soup, but an entire section of a city being removed and thousands of people being displaced so that an American corporation can build a theme park barely gets any attention. I guess it’s because this type of stuff isn’t exclusive to the Disney project - mass forced evictions for the greater “public good” are commonplace in China (this happened on a larger scale for the 2008 Olympics and Shanghai Expo); a small aspect of the broader absence of basic freedoms the Chinese people lack. But it's still fundamentally wrong, in my opinion.
And yeah yeah yeah, we're all giddy with excitement about a new Disney theme park; the park might turn out to be a success for the city and for the Chinese people to enjoy; this type of stuff happens all the time; they’ll resettle in their small apartments and be (unfairly) compensated. But don’t forget the human cost - the families that have to resettle their entire lives with meager compensation as described in this story, because Disney just needed to build a second Magic Kingdom in China.