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What's Behind China's Shame-Hiding Highway Walls?



GANSU - What’s the best way to handle the unpleasant view of decrepit roadside housing and poverty? Hide it! is the answer from officials of China's northwestern province of Gansu.

According to China's People's Daily, the local authority in Zhang County in Gansu has begun to build walls to hide the rows of unsightly poor housing straggling along the 212 National Road.

On the way out of this ancient caravanserai of the Silk Road, Zhang County is one of China’s most poverty-stricken areas. In 2011, the per capita annual income of Zhang County was 2960 RMB ($470).

These odd-looking brand new white walls are two meters high with a glazed tile finish on top. “They are shame-hiding walls to spare the leaders who often drive by on this road from seeing our ugly houses,” a farmer told People's Daily.

The government had actually designated the building of these walls as part of an anti-poverty project

Worst of all is that since the walls were built the narrow country road has become even narrower. Many heavy trucks pass though with horns blaring and this raises serious road safety problems for the villagers.

When asked about the project, a Zhang County official finally conceded that “it’s part of the county’s remediation of the houses along this road, which is also undergoing reconstruction. All the neighboring counties are doing it too. The purpose is to beautify the scenery along this road.”

As for the villagers’ complaints, another official blamed ignorance: “Some of these villagers have hardly just become literate. They haven’t got a sufficient level of understanding of the necessity of beautifying the environment. Their knowledge is not yet in place.”   

People’s Daily reports that similar such shame-hiding structures have been springing up over the past few years around China.

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