Hell No, I Won't Go: One Chinese Man's Fight To Save His 'Shanty' Home


Song Wenchao has become an unlikely hero in China. The 50-year-old man lives in the only remaining house on a building site in Hunan Province. All the others have been torn down by the Changsha City Government.

Song's home is still standing -- but only because he refuses to leave. It's the house he was born in, he points out. The one his family has been living in for generations.

See below picture of Song Wenchao from the news website

To discourage unwanted visitors there are three dogs - including a Tibetan mastiff, 18 video surveillance cameras and two automatic water jets. Having abandoned the ground floor, Song is now holed up in the house's upper floor. He has even demolished the staircase connecting the two. A banner outside warns: Private. Don't approach. You yourself will be responsible for the consequences of any intrusion.

The standoff began three years ago when Changsha City officials classified Song's house as shanty. The city tried to tear it down. "Authorites appraised the property at 420,00 RMB (nearly $66,000)," Song told the Economic Observer. "We are seven brothers and sisters. The share of this money won't even be enough to buy ourselves each a cremation casket."

Song is outraged. According to Shanghai Online News, a new apartment in the surrounding area costs more than 10,000 RMB ($1,500) per square-meter.

China's economic boom has spread to each corner of the country, and development involving construction is often the only way for corrupt local officials to put money in their pockets. Expropriations and demolitions have become commonplace throughout China. Desperate people brutally forced from their homes have frequently turned to desperate acts of suicide or violence.

Chen Ronghui, a neighbor who was present when the Economic Observer reporter interviewed Song, recalled what happened to his mother two years back: "A bunch of tattooed men with shaved heads forced their way into her home in the middle of the night and bullied by old mother, who was over 70, into signing a document to sell her house."

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Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.

Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books about Xi-Jinping on a shelf at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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