Evicted Beijingers Weigh In On Olympics Thousands of Beijing residents had to move to make way for Olympic construction. Even though the games have cost some their homes and community, they say they're proud to make the sacrifice in order to show the world China's power.

Evicted Beijingers Weigh In On Olympics

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93465248/93465230" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Behind the sparkle of the opening ceremonies are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people who were evicted to make way for Olympic venues and infrastructure. A handful of staged protests, but some are more pragmatic. NPR's Louisa Lim visited a group of people whose homes were razed to make room for the Olympic Park.

LOUISA LIM: I'm in a museum to a forgotten way of life, and it's a way of life that really came to an end when China won the Olympic Games. It's a museum set up on the far outskirts of Beijing by the inhabitants of one small rural village in northern Beijing. It was the first village to be knocked down to make way for the Olympic Park, and when it went, so too did centuries of history.

Yang Delu shows off the traditional bolos used to stoke the flames for cooking. His museum holds up a mirror to Chinese history through the prism of one small place - Wali village. Black and white photos show Wali commune in the 50s. Villagers conducting violent criticism sessions in the Cultural Revolution, then visits by state leaders in the 90s announcing the village would be set aside to make an Olympic Park.

Unidentified Man: (Through Translator) When they demolished Wali, lots of villagers cried hot tears at leaving this place, which had been home for generations. But we answered our government's appeals in order to make China's 100-year old dream of the Olympics come true.

LIM: Glasses clink because the former villagers drink a toast to the Olympics. When Wali was demolished in 2005, each family got around $120,000. It seemed a lot then, they say. But now, money's tight. Their 3,000 strong community dispersed, their communal history risked being lost. That weighs on Yao Yong Jun(ph). His family's job had been guarding the tomb of a 19th century princess once located a mile from the Olympic stadium.

Mr. YAO YONG JUN (Former Wali village resident): (Through Translator) For five generations, my family guarded that tomb. My forbearers built that tomb, and when it was destroyed, it was my generation that tore it down with our hands.

LIM: As the former neighbors eat, they chat about how chickens from Wali village are the best in the world, how spongy corn pancakes were special Wali delicacy, and then the opening ceremony begins.

Unidentified Man: (Chinese spoken)

LIM: Look, look, it's beautiful, they gasp, as fireworks spring from the stadium.

Mr. YANG DUSHANG (Former Wali village resident): (Chinese spoken)

LIM: Corn and wheat grew there when I was a kid, says Yang Dushang(ph), the elder brother of Yang Delu. As he watches approvingly, he says China's Olympics underlined the advantages of a one-party state.

Mr. DUSHANG: (Trough Translator) In a multi-party system they talk about things endlessly. If they wanted to take land, they'd worry about if the people were content. They wouldn't be able to do such big things. China is developing so fast. Tell me which capitalist country with a multi-party system is developing so fast?

LIM: One person seemed less nostalgic for Wali village. That's Yang Delu's 27-year-old son, Yang Hong(ph), who studied IT in Ireland. For his generation, the unbelievably fast chang China is undergoing is the norm.

Mr. YANG HONG (Former Wali village resident): I think things are changing so fast. Actually, you know, when I was Ireland, I think that Europe are changing too slow. I think change fast is good.

(Soundbite of cheering)

LIM: They watch as the 2008 drummers bang and bellow in unison, and the former neighbors agree on one thing - this spectacular ceremony shows China's strength, it's resurgence. This day has come at a personal cost to them, costing them their homes, their community, their identity, even their history. But they say they're proud to make that sacrifice in order to show the world China's power. Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.