Three Gorges Probe

Bright Sun City’s Dark Intent

(January 1, 2010)

Liu Bai’s Prologue

Since 1993, a year after the Three Gorges dam was approved by the National People’s Congress, two kinds of population resettlement in the Three Gorges area were officially sanctioned.2 Either the local government could take responsibility for relocating people in nearby areas, on higher slopes or “in areas that needed to be developed,” under a policy known as “resettlement with development,” or individuals destined to be displaced by the dam could arrange their own resettlement, outside of the reservoir area, known as “relocating oneself.” Under the former, people would move according to an integrated, government-organized plan; under the latter, people would use their own connections and seek help or receive invitations from friends and relatives in other areas to leave and settle somewhere else. By 2000, when the government announced that 1.35 million3 people would have to move to make way for the Three Gorges dam, as many as 200,000 people had “relocated themselves” to Hainan Island, Guangdong Province, Hubei Province, Shanghai, and other such places, including Bright Sun City (Dangyang) in Hubei, where this story takes place.4

Bright Sun City

Four hundred and seventy thousand people already lived in Bright Sun City, located in the Yichang area of Hubei Province to the north of the Yangtze River. This was an area about 2,000 square kilometres in size, three-quarters of which was hilly or mountainous. The city was classified as poor and severely lacking in arable land and resources, according to standard government criteria.

Though no official meeting sanctioned any such action, when some enterprising Bright Sun City citizens learned of the “relocating oneself” policy they organized a delegation to travel to the Three Gorges towns of Yunyang, Zhongxian, Fengjie, Wushan. The intent was to lure evacuees to Bright Sun City with promises of good living and working conditions, all under the banner of “working for the country and sharing the burden of the Three Gorges Project.”

Apprehensive and disoriented by their situation, those living in the dam resettlement area were moved by the kindness of the visiting Bright Sun City representatives. Furthermore, they generally trusted the government, so one by one they began to sign relocation contracts that stipulated compensation amounts and land allocations up front.

What the Three Gorges dam evacuees who agreed to move to Bright Sun City didn’t know was that the Bright Sun City representatives they so trusted had signed agreements with local village committees (from the soon-to-be-flooded areas), who were also in charge of the relocation funding. They would pay the Bright Sun City village committee 500 yuan for each person that moved and an additional 4,224 yuan per person newcomer for infrastructure (wells, roads, factories, etc.). This money would assist the newcomers to relocate to new homes and find new ways to make a living in Bright Sun City.

This was called the “Twin Resettlement Fee.” Though the Twin Resettlement Fee sounds reasonable, in reality the relocatees were not told how much was paid for their relocation benefit and they believe the funds ultimately disappeared into office building construction, luxury cars, and even into private pockets. City authorities denied it, claiming that the funds were clearly earmarked according to government documents and in the brief period of 12 days, had provided many benefits for the newcomers, including:

“an average per capita allocation of 1.5 mu of land: of the total aggregate of land provided, 4,509 mu are paddy fields, 3,188 mu are dry farmland, 1,035 mu are orchards and 1,096 mu are vegetable plots. In addition, there are also 66,000 square metres of level land for housing, 54 kilometres of roads, 132 bridges, 50 kilometres of telephone cable, 78 kilometres of electricity cabling, 450 wells, 30 renovated schools, 3,500 mu of land supplied with irrigation and water conservation…”

According to my on-the-spot investigations, these were totally fictitious projects. I asked the director of the Resettlement Bureau, Song Tianxue—a Bright Sun City official—, “Where are the projects that have been built for the benefit of the incoming people? Which village are they in? What are their locations? Please point them out to me.” Smugly nodding his head, Song replied, “Don’t rush me. What are you so agitated about?” Then he changed the subject.

Needless to say, the migrants who moved to Bright Sun City were concerned that money went missing and ultimately did nothing to help them establish new lives, but rather went directly into the pockets of enriched Bright Sun City officials. Bright Sun City attracted 832 migrant households from the Three Gorges area, or a total of 3,742 people, making it the area that had accepted the highest number of people resettled under the “relocating oneself” policy.

***

At the end of 2001, I went to a small Beijing hotel called Xikelai to meet with seven men who had been relocated to Bright Sun City. Fang Yunchao, Jian Xinghan, Yang Qingxi and the others had collected together some money to come to Beijing to plead their case for proper compensation to government officials.5 One of these seven, graying at the temples, strode into the little room crowded with people and suddenly fell to the floor. Kneeling in front of me, he said, “Thank you for being our saviour, we really can’t go on living!” Being a reporter, I had only promised to write a “Confidential Memo”6 after finding out a little about the situation. The man, whose name was Fang Yunchao, had been unable to get the relocation money owed to him after moving to Bright Sun City and had lost everything.

I noted that all of the migrants, staying crammed in that little room, were wearing very clean and tidy clothes. Even if their T-shirts were full of holes, their clothing had been properly washed. They said that it was what was expected of them, being in Beijing.

Having studied the materials that they had brought for their meeting with the authorities, I sent a letter to the government of Bright Sun City to verify the facts. The response I received made me lose hope. Then in the second half of 2003, just when I had decided to go and find out more about the circumstances in person, Fang, Jian and the others came to Beijing again. They were absolutely furious when I showed them the letter from Bright Sun City’s government. “It’s just total nonsense. Wait until we go back and can send you the evidence!” they said.

Later, having received quite a lot of information from them and feeling confident of proceeding further, I went by myself to Bright Sun City in June of 2004. Fang, Yang Qingxi and the rest weren’t able to receive me in their homes–they had fallen into a trap set by the city’s Party Committee, and had been condemned to serve six to eight month jail terms for “assembling people to attack a government department.” What exactly was this all about? When would their mistreatment end? When I went to Hubei in 2007, I had a chance to hear their stories in full.

Fang Yunchao’s Tale

Fang Yunchao (62 years old, illiterate, farmer)

Background:

The eight people in Fang’s household used to live peacefully in Xingcheng Cun (Abundant Village) in Dachang Zhen (Great Prosperity Town) before the construction of the Three Gorges dam. In 2000, they relocated to a place called Yingxiong Cun (Hero Village), which was part of Miaoqian Xiang (Temple Front Township) in Bright Sun City. According to the regulations, a family of eight people was entitled to relocation compensation of roughly 160,000 yuan. But Fang had only received a little more than 120,000 yuan.

Fang can still remember the time he first met the relocation promoter from Hero Village, who had made a special trip to Fang’s hometown for a meeting to persuade the villagers to move. It took place in an old building, which was used as the office for the Abundant village committee. The Bright Sun City promoter’s name was Liu. He appeared to be extremely kind and spoke very softly but convincingly about the government’s relocation policies and warned the villagers of the possible difficulties and hardships ahead. Many villagers signed contracts on the spot.

In 2004, after the move, Fang’s family ended up living in a ramshackle house that could collapse at any moment because it was made only of earth bricks supported by a few beams. There was virtually nothing inside the house apart from a light bulb hanging from the ceiling, whereas color televisions and fridges were commonplace in the locals’ households.

It is because we trusted the Communist Party that we stupidly believed his lies. Before leaving my hometown, the Abundant village committee assessed my house arbitrarily as being worth 23,000 yuan and insisted that I buy an existing three-room house with farmland attached in the Bright Sun City area. I was told that the compensation funds for my original house had been transferred to Hero Village by the Wushan County government, as part of my total compensation payment. But when I arrived in Hero Village, I was not allowed to move into my new house unless I paid the previous owner for the house. I couldn’t work out what was going on and had no alternative but to pay him 10,000 yuan and ask him to get the rest of the funds from his village committee, which was handling my compensation payment. I was surprised to see the house owner the next day. He came back to ask for the rest of the house payment from me, as he had been told to do by his village committee. I knew that the Wushan County government had already given the Bright Sun City village committee the compensation money for my resettlement, so I refused to pay more. Not getting what he wanted, the house owner locked us out of the house.

The new area we live in—Bright Sun City—is under the control of Hubei Province. The only thing we could do was go to the local village committee.7 I could not believe that they all ganged up to bully us. In order to get the money for my house back,8 I had to go to the higher authorities. I went to the Temple Front Township government9 to ask for help, but I got nothing. It was late autumn and it rained a lot. Eight of us, my wife and I, my two daughters and their husbands and my two grandchildren, had to put up a shelter on the street and sleep under very rough conditions. With the rain beating down on the shelter and frogs croaking outside, I felt very sad and didn’t know how to cope any more. It was to support the construction of the Three Gorges dam that I left my own hometown and came here! Now I didn’t even have a house to live in. How were we to get by?

For seven days, I ran around trying to get my house payment back. It was then that my heart broke and I got rheumatism. As if that wasn’t enough, the house owner who had not received his money, ganged up on me with three other thugs and beat me up on the street. I was 60 years old and I have never been so humiliated in my whole life. It was too much to bear and I didn’t want to live any more. Only when the village committee realized that the situation was getting out of hand did they decide to pay the house owner. However, there was yet another condition: I had to thank them for resolving the issue by inviting the house owner and the village committee for a 1,000 yuan meal. I swallowed my pride and agreed to do so in the hope that it would be the end of my bad luck, without realizing that it was just the beginning of yet more torture.

Now, at least, we had somewhere to live. But soon, another issue arose. We were only given compensation for six adults–the compensation for my two grandchildren had not been paid. It was over 30,000 yuan, a big sum. I had to ask for it again. I never expected that I would end up being locked up in prison as a result of asking for the compensation due to my two grandchildren. Our “crime” was “assembling to attack a government organization.”

It happened this way. On October 28, 2003, the mayor of Bright Sun City said that he wanted to greet the newly relocated people. Dozens of us, all representatives of the resettled migrants, arrived at the City Hall at the appointed time for the meeting with the mayor. We were then told that the meeting place had been changed to the Resettlement Bureau. We had to rush to the bureau as it was some distance away and we needed to go through the downtown area to get there. But our rush through the city in order to get to the meeting was then misconstrued as a demonstration, and called “assembling to attack a government department.” So we fell right into their well-laid trap.

We were put into prison in April 2004 and kept there until December. We had to pay 200 yuan per month for food in the prison! In the eight months of imprisonment, I paid 1,600 yuan. If you wanted to have a meat dish, you had to pay the special prisoners’ price: 1,000 yuan for an uncooked pig head and 7,000 yuan for a 100 kilo pig. But a local farmer could only earn 50 yuan profit for raising a pig! Besides, there was also the 10 yuan a month to watch television. As for medical care, the rheumatism I got from sleeping rough when we first arrived in Bright Sun City became much worse in the prison and the pain in my back and legs was too much to bear. When I asked for a doctor, the warden said pain killers were good enough for me and didn’t allow me to go to hospital. I had to pay five yuan to get one pain killer from them! In the eight months I was in prison, all my pigs had to be sold, the land was left untended, there was no food in the pot, no one to care for my family, and my wife was in tears the whole time.

Bright Sun City’s Resettlement Bureau and the committee in Hero Village also cheated me of the money to buy piglets. They said they would offer me a loan to set up a pig farm. I needed to pay for the piglets myself first, they said, and they would pay me the loan later. But two weeks after I bought the piglets, I was sent to prison. I invested 50,000 yuan in the pig farm and it all went down the drain. Now not only did I have no money left, I had a debt of over 20,000 yuan as well.

I didn’t give up. After I was released from prison, I continued to demand the loan they promised me and chased after the compensation for my grandchildren and the “Twin Resettlement Fee” they owed the other two people in my family.10 They were furious. For two years, from 2005 to 2006, they deliberately cut off my water supply when I needed it most to transplant rice seedlings. You simply can’t afford to miss the transplanting season and this year, I had to go and ask them for help. They did come, but with a bulldozer. Within an hour, they turned my paddy field into a big swamp. I was desperate for help but ended up feeling too embarrassed to face any one.

In May 2007, Fang Yunchao, who was over 60, had to leave home to find casual work in Fangxian County, Hubei Province. In a long-distance telephone call from Lao Fang, he said to me, “I had neither money nor land, how else can I make a living apart from leaving home to look for casual work?”

Wang Like’s Tale

Wang Like (33 years old, high school educated, farmer)

Background:

Jiuchong Village (Nine-Gullies Village) is in the town of Yuxi (Nurture Stream), Bright Sun City. It is 300 metres east of the highway between Bright Sun City and Jingmen (Bramble Gate). This small village has accommodated over 80 migrants, about 16 households, and Wang’s family is one of them. The host village committee should have received 337,920 yuan in “Twin Resettlement Fees” to assist in resettling and employing these 80 people. But who exactly was in charge of planning and transferring the funding? Who managed the whole operation?

Before construction of the Three Gorges dam, we had lived in Great Abundance Village for generations. We were not rich, but had our own houses and land, and as we had more than enough to live on, we were very comfortably off.

Before we moved here and before we signed the contracts, the village committee said they had everything—our new house and land—ready and that we would get anything we needed. But after we arrived here, they did not allocate the 1.5 mu of land that each of us was supposed to get, nor did we get the business set-up costs and resettlement living expenses, so life was really hard! I have a big family, and with so little land per person, the grain we were able to grow wasn’t enough to feed us.

From the time I arrived in Bright Sun City, I farmed “landlord’s fields,” controlled by the village committee. To be able to farm this land, I had to sign an agreement with the village committee. This agreement was in fact a 20-year-job contract, or lease, issued directly by the village committee to resettled landless migrants. These parcels of land were not taxed by the government, but in truth the members of the village committee treated this land as their “private bank,” pocketing the rent money or spending it on personal expenses. These sorts of “landlord’s fields” were very common in Bright Sun City and places like Liwan, Tonghu and Mulin villages. Some village committees controlled 20 or so mu of these sorts of fields; some had more than a hundred.

Moreover, we never saw how a penny of the “Twin Resettlement Fee” was spent. I dare say that the money went into their pockets. I’m running a big risk because I’ve collected some evidence about all of this. Just have a look at these five “Requests for Appropriation of Capital Funding” by the village committee. In the space of one day, on August 14, 2002, the town government11 approved all five requests, and our migrant relocation funding was transferred into their private hands, just like that.

The first document

Yuxi Town Party Committee and Government:

In order to successfully resettle the migrants, and to implement the policies stipulated in document 40 of the National Yangtze River Water Conservation Committee’s Report,12 and document 15 of the Municipal Government Migrant Relocation Report, 30,800 yuan is required to pay the difference in funding, amounting to 6,160 yuan per head, to support each of five migrants whose status has changed from “accompanying migrants” to “resettled migrants” and who now require the “Twin Resettlement Fee.” The migrants with changed statuses have to re-sign new standard contracts that are similar to their original contracts. Your approval is sought for this transaction of which details are attached.

Jiuchong Village Committee, Yuxi Town

August 14, 2002

But I ask, who were these five migrants? What did the officials mean by “support migrants whose status has changed from “accompanying migrants” to “resettled migrants”? Who decided what the payment would be and how was this decision made? Who was going to supervise the implementation? The request doesn’t mention anything about all of this.

The second document

Yuxi Town Party Committee and Government:

In order to facilitate the livelihoods of and production by the migrants, 65,000 yuan of funding for basic equipment is required to build a bridge and a road dedicated to migrants’ farm work. The detailed budget is as follows: 45,000 yuan for the bridge (farmland will have to be used for the purpose); 20,000 yuan for an 800 metre road, including 170 truckloads of sand and cobblestone, costing between 110 and 120 yuan a truckload. Your review of the proposal is welcomed and your approval is appreciated.

Jiuchong Village Committee, Yuxi Town

August 14, 2002

Again, why was a bridge needed after the migrants arrived? Where was the bridge to be built? Who was responsible for designing and building the bridge? The proposal doesn’t mention any of the above.

The third document

Yuxi Town Party Committee and Government:

In order to successfully resettle the migrants, and to implement the policies stipulated in document 40 of the National Yangtze River Water Conservation Committee’s Report, and document 15 of the Municipal Government Migrant Relocation Report, 11,856 yuan is required to pay the land fee for house building. The village charged six relocated households including Fang Yunzhong and Liu Yuxi land fees and taxes for using farmland to build houses. These fees and taxes should be paid back to the migrants. Your approval is sought for this transaction of which details are attached.

Jiuchong Village Committee, Yuxi Town

August 14, 2002

But what were the land fees and taxes charged by the village for using farmland to build houses? Have the migrants actually received compensation for having paid these fees and taxes?

The fourth document

Yuxi Town Party Committee and Government:

In order to successfully resettle the migrants, and to implement the policies stipulated in document 40 of the National Yangtze River Water Conservation Committee’s Report, and document 15 of the Municipal Government Migrant Relocation Report, 19,413.72 yuan is required to pay tax owed by the migrants. The total amount of tax that migrants should have paid over the last three years is 19,413.72 yuan; 12,256.55 yuan has been paid, which leaves 7,157.17 yuan to be paid. Your approval is sought for this transaction of which details are attached.

Jiuchong Village Committee, Yuxi Town

August 14, 2002

Again, I ask, what was the tax for? Why should the village committee ask for the amount of money again when the migrants had already paid?

The fifth document

Yuxi Town Party Committee and Government:

In order to successfully resettle the migrants, and to implement the policies stipulated in document 40 of the National Yangtze River Water Conservation Committee’s Report, and document 15 of the Municipal Government Migrant Relocation Report, 154,000 yuan is required to repay relocation compensation to migrants. This amount of funding was borrowed from the relocation funding to make up for the shortage of contract funding paid to migrants in the first stage. Now the loan has expired and needs to be paid back. Your approval is sought for this transaction.

Jiuchong Village Committee, Yuxi Town

August 14, 2002

In just one day, in five spending sprees, 272,069.72 yuan of the total “Twin Resettlement Fees” of 337,920 yuan that should have been spent on resettlement projects for our 16 households was used up. There was still 65,850.28 yuan left in the account book. But this wasn’t the end of it: 14 days later, on August 31, the village committee sent another demand. Only this time it wasn’t called a “Request for Appropriation of Capital Funding,” instead it was entitled a “Request for Funds Required to Meet Migrants Business Set up Costs in Jiuchong Village.” And this time, the requesting organisation changed: it was no longer the town Party Committee and government but only the government of Yuxi.13 This time they asked for 100,000 yuan and said it was to build a bridge. Although only some 60,000 yuan remained in the account, they still demanded 100,000 yuan—they had become totally muddleheaded over all that spending!

On August 31, we found out about this “Request for Funds” through an informer inside the village committee. Twenty or so of us went to look for the party secretary and the head of the village and asked them to make public how they planned to use the resettlement funding. The party secretary scolded me and said I “didn’t understand the resettlement policies,” and the head of the village added that “migrants have no right to have a say in spending.” We kept asking for the evidence of how the money was used for the next four years, but it was never provided. They became more and more arrogant, calling us “unruly.” A few days ago, in a special three-level municipal meeting, the director of Bright Sun City’s Migrant Resettlement Bureau, Song Tianxue, said quite openly that he wanted to “sort us out,” meaning run us over, get us beaten up, or make sure that we all came to a sticky end. The migrants from the Three Gorges were truly in a difficult predicament!

Kuang Angen’s Tale

Kuang Angen (47 years old, junior high school educated, farmer)

Background:

The four people in the Kuang family were relocated to Group Four in Forest Village.

When we migrated to Bright Sun City they didn’t give residency permits (hukou)14 to the youngest and oldest people in the family. Without residency, a person couldn’t get relocation reimbursement. So that money went straight into the pockets of corrupt officials. (Fan Yunchao’s parents, for instance, were here for nearly a year, but were never given residency permits, so couldn’t get their resettlement compensation and finally returned to Dachang with tears in their eyes. Another example of this is Ou Xiuhua, who had already been living in the resettlement town of Fengshan Village, a part of Yuyang Town, for seven or eight years. However his son, Ou Mimi, remained an unregistered resident without a permit. When he went to see the director of the Resettlement Bureau, Song Tianxue, he was told, “I can’t do anything.”)

Bright Sun City’s Party Committee was not at all shamefaced about the lies they told. For example, they kept telling the higher authorities that they were doing what had been asked of them, to reduce the migrants’ agricultural taxes.15 But what was the reality? All you need to do is have a look the “‘Hubei Bright Sun City’s (county and district) Tax Payment Statement’” to understand what was going on. I have it here:

To Kuang Angen (migrant), Forest Village Group Four:

According to the “Agricultural Taxation Regulations of the People’s Republic of China” and the “Management and Implementation of Agricultural Tax Levies in Hubei Province,” a contract to farm 13 mu of land will incur an annual tax of 378 yuan, with additional payment of 76 yuan: in total 454 yuan.

Notice is hereby given that:

Location for tax payment: Village Committee

Overdue or late payments: 05% per day fine (a 5/10,000 fine on a daily basis)

April 21, 2004

As well as agricultural taxes, we also have to pay a 100 yuan per person head tax, and also the very vague “Migrant Temporary Residence Fee,” and so on. Later in 2005, when we found out that migrants didn’t have to pay the agricultural tax, they stopped asking for it, but we had been paying it unnecessarily for five years. In those five years, each person had paid at least a couple of thousand yuan for no reason at all.

In Herong Town16 the village committee spent the entire amount of the “Twin Resettlement Fees,” probably squandering it and later, when the village committee cadres wanted to dig a well in the village and needed to install a transformer—something that should have been paid for out of the “Twin Resettlement Fees”—they borrowed the money from the migrants, an amount of 20,000 or so yuan, which still hasn’t been repaid!

There are four people in my family, and according to the contractual agreement, we should have been given six mu of land, but we were only given a little more than four mu. Nevertheless, publicly, the city authorities claim that land was distributed in accordance with the contracts.

When I enquired about the actual amount of land that was supposed to be distributed as prescribed in the “Land Management Contract,” the authorities said that this document was not the same as the one that the villages actually used, called the “Verified List of Relocated Migrants’ Land Allocations.” But according to both documents, each migrant should be given 1.5 mu of land. The local officials tried to justify the difference by claiming that the area of land was calculated according to standard mu, and that each village and group had a different standard calculation of what a mu was, as dictated by historical precedent. Could there be any more arbitrary explanation than this? Whichever way you looked at it, the authorities were always able to justify themselves. People ought to say things in good faith, but their good faith had gone to the dogs ages ago!

Tan Guixiang’s Tale

Tan Guixiang (Tujia ethnic minority, 40 years old)

After 2006, four members of the Tan family left for three different destinations to find work. Only Tan Guixiang’s wife’s father-and mother-in-law, then in their 70s and 80s, were left at home.

In 2000, our family moved from a small town in the locality of Zhongxian County in the reservoir area here to Liwan Village in Bright Sun City’s Temple Front Town. There were six of us, my wife and me, two children and my wife’s parents. Before we came, they said we could have six mu of land, but when we got here we were only given four mu. My fields were right next to the fields of a local guy called Li Bailiang. Sometimes he’d try to cause trouble by picking on me and often damaged my crops.

At the beginning of July in 2003, when he damaged my corn and sweet potatoes again, I couldn’t put up with it any more and I went to have it out with him, but he claimed that I’d taken over some of his land. So, I used some string to mark the boundary clearly, and asked the head of the village Party Committee, Li Guofu, to come and arbitrate. Li Guofu came and made a scene waving his arms about, kicking in my direction and shouting. He, too, accused me of taking over some of Li Bailiang’s land. Honestly, wasn’t this just a case of them ganging up together to bully an outsider? At the time I felt that if they were going to be unreasonable, I’d have to find someone who would be reasonable. I wrote a complaint and went to the Resettlement Bureau in Bright Sun City to ask for arbitration. But I got it wrong. They took no notice, even though I went back to the bureau several times.

However, I felt that this situation could not be left unresolved. Who would have thought that three days later, just when I had come home from looking after the cattle as evening fell, Li Bailiang and a gang of his young relatives, Li Baifa, Li Haiqiao and Li Dongsheng burst into my house. They carried long knives, hoes, shovels and other tools, and beat me until I was covered in blood and lying in a coma. Afterward my family called the police on 110 and emergency services on 120. The police came, but gave no help whatsoever. The next day my wife, Zhen Songmei, went to the police station in Temple Front Town to report the incident. The security cadres and police at the station not only refused to take down the details but also screamed at my wife to “get out!”

I had been beaten so badly that I had to go to hospital. In October, when I got out of hospital, Zhou Heming of the Public Security Bureau in Bright Sun City assessed that my injuries had seriously disabled me. Even though that was his judgment and our family’s livelihood had been affected in a very fundamental way because of my beating, the guys who did it got off scot-free. My wife went to the Resettlement Bureau to try and organise treatment for me, without realising that the officials in the Resettlement Bureau were just like the police in the Public Security Bureau – they were totally uninterested and they also told her to go away.

When the hospital stopped my treatment, the only thing my family could do was to sell our plough ox to get money for further treatment. Our two kids also quit high school. Our younger son was quite a good student, and before quitting he’d asked me if I could borrow money so he could finish junior high. But who would want to lend us money in the sort of mess we were in? Even if they did give us a loan, we could never afford to repay it!

By 2006, I still hadn’t recovered from my injuries, but four of us went to Guangzhou to find jobs. Going elsewhere was the only thing we could do as we had no means of support in Bright Sun City, but I still miss home where my wife’s parents are. They’re in their 80s now, so I don’t feel good about leaving them, but if I went back to Bright Sun City, I’d have no way of supporting them anyway, and now all I can do is send a bit of money to them each month.

Liu Bai’s Epilogue

The director of Bright Sun City’s Resettlement Bureau, Song Tianxue stated that the government was instrumental in designing and putting into action the relocation of migrants to the area, “To make every effort for the country and share the burden of the Three Gorges dam.”17 Under his leadership, all of the villages with relocated migrants had two sets of accounts, one for the migrants to see and the other just for the perusal of those in authority. His rationale was: “Some migrants are very cunning and spend their whole time trying to muddy the waters.”

On a low level cadre salary (which in Bright Sun City was about 2,000 yuan a month), he has been able to get 50 mu of land and build three beautiful houses for himself in the six years that migrants have been relocating from the Three Gorges area into his area of jurisdiction. These are photos of the houses he has managed to get, taken by the relocated people.

Click here to download the PDF and read the original.


“Bright Sun City’s Dark Intent” is the third in a series of oral histories from China’s Three Gorges region.

Banned and famed Chinese environmentalist and journalist Dai Qing has organized a team of journalists to record a remarkable collection of oral histories from the riverside towns and villages affected by the Three Gorges dam on China’s Yangtze River. Three Gorges Probe is proud to bring you these uncensored, touching and often shocking stories. Those forcibly displaced by the world’s largest hydroelectric project have been denied a voice for too long. This collection gives it back.

Translation, editing and online publication of the Three Gorges Oral History Series has been made possible by the Open Society Institute.


[1] In 2002, Liu Bai, the pen name of a senior Chinese journalist, interviewed Three Gorges migrants and published their stories in a book entitled The Dream in Three Gorges is Dead. Three Gorges Probe asked Liu Bai to return and re-interview those migrants to update his accounts of their plight. They are presented here in Three Gorges Probe’s oral histories.

[2]The first resettlement policy was issued on August 19, 1993 and the second one, or a revised one based on the first, was issued on March 1, 2001

[3] By the end of September, 2006, 1.2 million had been moved.

[4] According to stipulations in the Yangtze River Water Conservation Committee documents, each person in a household that relocated themselves had to sign a relocation contract and, in theory, should receive 25,000 yuan (US$3,100) compensation.

[5] Government at the national level.

[6] Mainstream Chinese press articles that Propaganda Department editors “kill” before publication (for being too sensitive, revealing etc.) will often run instead in the “Internal Reference Report” or restricted newspaper for high level Party officials’ eyes only. That was the destiny of this “Confidential Memo.”

[7] This was their only course of action because they came from Chongqing Municipality – the same level as Hubei Province.

[8] This included the original 23,000 yuan that his soon-to-be-flooded home was assessed at and which should have been paid directly to him upon his move to Bright Sun City, as well as the 10,000 yuan that he was bullied into paying the owner of the house in Bright Sun City which had been designated as his new home.

[9] Fang went to Temple Front Township because township governments have more authority than village governments.

[10] Whether or not Fang thought the Twin Resettlement Fee should go directly to him or to the host village that received dam evacuees (and many migrants misunderstood this policy thinking it should go directly to them), he wanted to know the value of the fee transferred on his family’s behalf.

[11] The town government is a higher authority than the village committee, but still below the county government.

[12] This is the report called “Section 40 of the 2001 Yangtze River Water Conservation Committee Report” referred to at the beginning of the story.

[13] These organizations are at the same level and for the same area. The first five requests for funds were made to both the town Party Committee and the government of Yuxi, but the sixth was made only to the government in an attempt to duplicate projects and avoid detection.

[14] “Household registration” gives citizens the right to live in a particular spot, work, and receive social services such as school, health care etc.

[15] According to the resettlement policy, migrants should be exempt from agricultural taxes for three years.

[16] Mr. Kuang is referring to a town in the same city region where the situation was much worse.

[17] This is a common government slogan.

Liu Bai

Translated By: Madeleine Ross and Fang Li, January 1, 2010

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Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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