The controversial demolition of houses at Dongsi Batiao, an ancient alley of
courtyard homes in downtown Beijing, has been suspended, an official with
Dongcheng District government has confirmed.
Suspending demolition, however, doesn't mean the redevelopment project has
been terminated, the official said.
The official said the demolition office will continue negotiating with local
residents over the amount of compensation they will receive.
By Saturday, only the No. 9 courtyard in the hutong or alley had been
bulldozed and fewer than 10 of the 80 families in the neighborhood had moved.
Dongsi Batiao, which literally translated means the eighth hutong in the
Dongsi area, was first developed some 700 years ago during the Ming Dynasty
(1271-1368). It has been listed as one of the capital's 25 protected historical
The redevelopment plan has been criticized by historians, experts and in
editorials that point out the area is one of the city's 25 protected historic
sites and should be preserved.
Other courtyard homeowners such as Xia Jie, a folklore lover who has grown up
in Dongsi Batiao and owns a 500-sqm siheyuan or four-sided courtyard, wants the
redevelopment project permanently halted.
"Hutongs are the soul of Beijing. They must be preserved." Xia, who has
petitioned the government and is awaiting feedback, was quoted by the Beijing
Times as saying.
However, local newspapers say that many of the local residents with no
property rights of the courtyards are eager to move but upset with the
compensation, with the lowest at 8,090 yuan a square meter.
"We can't wait to move. Who said this is cultural relics, please come to my
place and see for yourself," said another resident who had lived 17 years in a
shabby one-room shack.
Some residents say these traditional houses lack sufficient sanitation such
as flushing toilets, bathrooms and are in unsafe condition. They deemed it's a
good chance to improve living conditions but the compensation is not enough to
buy an apartment downtown where housing price can be twice as much as the
compensation for per sq m.
The owner of the No. 9 courtyard, said she was satisfied with the
compensation. The developer paid her more than 20,000 yuan for one square meter
because the courtyard is her private property.
Bai Hua, deputy manager of Zhong Bao Jia Ye Property Development, would not
confirm that demolition had been suspended as he had not received formal notice
from the government.
The housing administration of Dongcheng District published an announcement in
February saying two hutongs, the eighth and ninth of Dongsi, would be
The authority posted another notice on April 15, ordering all the residents
to move out before May 26.
Covering an area of 80,000 square meters, the redevelopment of the area was
approved by the municipal urban planning bureau in 2001 under the name of
"renovation of endangered historic areas".
Liu Qifei, an archaeologist and a member of the Beijing Municipal Committee
of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress, the local political
advisory body, appealed to the municipal government in late April, asking that
the project be stopped.
Liu also said the departments in charge of the project should be reprimanded
for damaging the city's image as an ancient capital.
The hutongs, traditional networks of small lanes and courtyards, have been
rapidly vanishing in recent years as Beijing modernizes, triggering outcries to
safeguard the city's unique heritage.