Three Gorges Probe

The plight of Three Gorges migrants: in the government’s own words

(February 24, 2010) In what might be a first, China’s state media is telling the truth about migrants who were forced off their land to make way for the massive Three Gorges dam.  A recent China Daily story covered the painstaking details of a family trying to integrate in a new community after being forced to move to an east coast city from their home in the southwest.

He Gonghua and Deng Shiju describe some of the challenges they encountered, including not speaking the local dialect, inadequate compensation and being unable to apply for loans from local banks.

“Local people had no confidence in us because of our immigrant identity and dialect. Banks wouldn’t provide loans to us because they feared we would run away with the money and never come back,” He said.

The article from China Daily is a stark reversal of long-standing government policies to censor news about the desperate plight of migrants. Coverage of the resettlement of 1.3 million people has always maintained the myth of the “happy re-settler.” At the Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing, for example, murals depict them as willingly packing up their belongings and resettling for the good of the motherland.

That began to change more recently as operational and resettlement problems began to emerge at the dam and new leaders began eschewing responsibility for it. But rarely has criticism of the Three Gorges’ relocation program been hard-hitting.

This will be a startling read for those accustomed to reading between the lines of the official mouthpieces, such as China Daily. There are no punches pulled here, just the raw, painful details of what it feels like to be forced to leave your home and start anew.

While the story of He Gonghua and Deng Shiju is a partial admission by the state that the relocations have hurt the migrants, it’s also a brief look into the unpreparedness of the state in managing the relocation program. As the government begins to relocate hundreds of thousands more residents in the next stage of the Three Gorges resettlement, and for the South-North Water Diversion Scheme, many of the problems are sure to resurface, yet again.

Probe International, February 24, 2010

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Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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