Developers would rather a holdout farmer in central China left her home so it can be razed for a high-rise development, but instead the woman has added a giant Buddha statue to her house.
The area on the outskirts of Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, was rezoned to become a cluster of tall residential buildings in 2014, and all but a few households have since moved out after accepting one of the 120-square-meter apartments offered in compensation. For the remaining farmers, electricity, water, and internet have been cut, and except for a narrow footpath, their houses sit entirely besieged by construction work.
The villager who bought the statue refuses to follow her neighbors and relatives and live in an apartment, her nephew, Li Hui, told Sixth Tone on Tuesday. His aunt, whose surname is Lian, is a devout Buddhist, Li said. Half a month ago the octogenarian had the copper Buddha likeness placed inside her courtyard, for which her children and other believers reportedly paid over 500,000 yuan ($74,000). The story was first reported Monday by a freelance journalist and has since been picked up by other media.
When pictures of the statue were spread online, people speculated that Lian and her family bought the statue so they could earn more compensation. But Li denied this, saying that his aunt’s motivations are entirely religious. “She said she wanted to move out, but the Buddha doesn’t want to,” he said.
Li Wenqian, a lawyer who specializes in land requisition cases at Laishuo Law Firm in Beijing, told Sixth Tone that in any case, the addition of the statue to Lian’s house does not change her legal situation when it comes to being relocated. Li also added that the remaining villagers should not be forced to move out by having their electricity or water cut.
The Buddha itself might actually be illegal, as building such statues without official approval violates a 2016 central government regulation.
China’s so-called nail homes — those occupied by people who, like Lian, refuse to move out when their neighborhood is being redeveloped — have become a common phenomenon of the country’s rapid urbanization. In March, media published a photo of several tile-roofed houses in the center of a highway in eastern China. Possibly the most famous example occurred in Chongqing, in southwestern China, in 2007: One house was left standing on a steep hill as a construction pit had been dug out around it.
The developer of the apartment compound in Zhengzhou, Henan Yishenghe Real Estate Co. Ltd., was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. Reportedly for safety reasons, the company has arranged for guards to be stationed by the statue day and night.
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: A large Buddha statue is seen near a construction site in Xingyang, Henan province, July 16, 2017. Wang Tao for Sixth Tone)