How the City Moved to…

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Favela, Rio de Janeiro, photo Neville Mars

The New York Times featured an article about the Rio Olympics today, that looks amazingly recognizable: just replace the name ‘Rio’ for ‘Beijing’, and change ‘favela‘ for ‘hutong‘ and you have the story about what happened downtown Beijing between 2002 and 2008:

“The authorities think progress is demolishing our community just so they can host the Olympics for a few weeks,” said Cenira dos Santos, 44, who owns a home in the settlement, which is known as Vila Autódromo. “But we’ve shocked them by resisting.”

For many Brazilians, holding the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics on Brazilian soil is the ultimate expression of the nation’s elevation on the world stage, and the events are perfect symbols of its newfound economic prowess and international standing.

Sports and evictions is a popular combination: the same happened in South Africa two years ago when people from Townships in Capetown were removed to the ‘relocation area’ of Blikkies Dorp (literally: Tin can Town). The Guardian about this ‘relocation area’:

“It’s a dumping place,” said Jane Roberts, who lives in the sparsely furnished structure known as M49. “They took people from the streets because they don’t want them in the city for the World Cup. Now we are living in a concentration camp.” (..)

Campaigners argue that this bleak place in Delft township shows that Africa’s first World Cup has become a tool to impress wealthy foreigners at the expense of its own impoverished people. Residents say it is worse than the townships created by the white minority government before the end of racial apartheid in 1994.

The same sort of phenomena seems to take place in Rio now:

“These events were supposed to celebrate Brazil’s accomplishments, but the opposite is happening,” said Christopher Gaffney, a professor at Rio’s Fluminense Federal University. “We’re seeing an insidious pattern of trampling on the rights of the poor and cost overruns that are a nightmare.”

Estimations are that in Brazil, 170,000 people face evictions. And the way these evictions take place, are also remarkably recognizable..:

In São José dos Campos, an industrial city, a violent eviction in January of more than 6,000 people captured the nation’s attention when security forces stormed in, clashing with squatters armed with wooden clubs.

Although there are similarities between these huge sports events that are used as a legitimation to remove large residential ares, there are also differences between the examples of Rio and Beijing:

Meanwhile, residents in some of the favelas, or slums, who face eviction are pulling together and standing their ground, in stark contrast to the preparations for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where authorities easily removed hundreds of thousands of families from the city for the Games.

Favela residents are using handheld video cameras and social media to get their messages across. And they are sometimes getting a helping hand from Brazil’s vibrant and crusading news media, arguably the envy of other Latin American countries.

Four more years till the Olympic Torch will be carried into the stadium. To be continued..

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Violent Eviction Map

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bloody-map

Through Shanghaiist and Global Voices:

Global Voices called our attention to a recent project created by an anonymous Chinese blogger devoted to charting incidents of violent eviction throughout China on a “Bloody Map” (xuefang ditu, 血房地图.) His motive is to inform the public and encourage new home buyers to boycott any property stained by violent acquisition. From his Sina account:

The goal of Bloody Map is to collect and list cases of violent eviction which have, or will, already faded from public view; some cases going back 2-3 years I had to dig up myself, but with your support, it’ll be much easier. When I say that new housing is being built right now on land covered in blood, people know what I mean.

There are forceful evictions taking place now which need more media attention, Bloody Map on its own isn’t an appropriate platform to that end. People can’t expect that an effort like this will create enough attention to put an end to current forced evictions. The goal of this site is to present evidence allowing consumers to make decisions. If a day comes when this tiny map is able to make people within the interest chain of a particular eviction reconsider their actions, then it will have achieved its goal.

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China News: New Rules Seek to Ease China Property Disputes | China Digital Times (CDT)

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Property disputes are happening all over China. This is not strange in a country where all land is state owned and every urban settlement is booming: real estate development within these conditions is like preparing a meal in a pressure cooker. Last week, news was that there will be possible changes in the legislation concerning property disputes. China Digital Times had this article about the pending legislation:

Disputes over as land gets sold for have resulted in violent protests in recent years throughout China. New rules may give homeowners more rights and help ease tensions, Reuters reports:

With China’s feverish real estate market stoking developer appetite for land, existing guidelines allowing local governments to confiscate homes and claim land have drawn demands for change, which could eventually slow demolitions.

Property disputes in a country where the government legally controls all land can lead to rowdy protests, fights with police, imprisonment and even suicide.

According to a set of State Council Legislative Affairs rules pending review through February 12, anyone losing land should be paid market value, while demolition disputes should go to court and lawsuits should settle contract violations.

Chinese facing removal have long complained that the amount of compensation offered is far below the real value of their homes. Some allege that officials collude with developers to demand land in the name of public needs, such as roads, then turn it over to commercial investors who can reap big profits.

Strong-arm tactics should also be forbidden, they say.

Read more about and via CDT.

China News: New Rules Seek to Ease China Property Disputes | China Digital Times (CDT).

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