amw (amw) wrote,

police loop and a goodbye to baishizhou

Following on from my last post, this afternoon i took a trip to Luohu District to pick up my passport from the police. It takes a little over an hour on the subway outside of rush hour.

Now, i've kept mum about the mask thing lately because most of my LJ friends are American and over there it's turned into some weird ideological battle where pro-mask people seem to treat anyone not wearing a mask "properly" as a murderer by proxy.

Personally, i think governments that enforce mask regulations are reminiscent of the world's most oppressive theocracies, which up until corona were the only places that had this garbage-fire law. I find it especially outrageous to police people's clothing in situations where there is no public benefit, i.e. any place where people are further than spitting distance apart from one another.

However. I also respect the people around me enough to wear a mask anyway when i am on public transport, inside shops or outside in crowded pedestrian areas, and i think it is a dick move not to do that.

So it was pretty embarrassing to walk into the police station and every single white person waiting for their passport had their mask off or around their necks. Like, what do you think you're achieving, dumbass? You're wearing the mask supposedly for the sake of other people, now you are crammed into a waiting room, in close quarters with a whole bunch of other people, sitting there for half an hour or more, and now is the time you're pulling it down? For fuck's sake. Expats in China make me cringe.

Anyway, after being accused by the police officer for not being me (it's not my fault my photo had to be Photoshopped to within in an inch of its life just to be accepted by their software!) and paying my fee for the new "humanitarian visa" (how is it "humanitarian" when i had to pay for it, and it gives me less rights than the visa i was just forced to replace?) i got the hell out of there.

I decided to go home via 白石洲 Baishizhou which is/was the largest urban village in Shenzhen. They've been threatening to tear it down on and off for years, and finally last year the government just came in and evicted everyone. The thing is, the redevelopment hasn't really moved along as quickly as expected, i think because some of the residents made enough of a fuss that the government relented and agreed to designate some of it as heritage buildings. Or something. In reality, it's now a huge neighborhood of mostly abandoned buildings that have been surrounded by steel fences, but there are still some squatters trying to eke out a living until the bulldozers come and knock it all down for real.

This is the future of my urban village, of every urban village in Shenzhen. 拆迁 - eviction and demolition. The working class tenements and wet markets and plastic stool restaurants are replaced by gated communities, shopping malls and chain restaurants. The local languages go extinct. Neighborhoods turn into a bourgeois dystopia, identical to every other suburban block in China. And all the people who used to live there are pushed out, to a lower tier city, or often back to subsistence farming, due to the hukou system which makes moving to a lower tier city less desirable than returning to the family smallhold.

I wish i had the time to stay here and learn more about this. Baishizhou and places like it are exactly why i came to China. The stories of the newly-urbanized, and the newly-deurbanized. The migrant workers and transient people that power the economy, the people who build condos they will never be able to afford, the ones who the party elites and property developers have declared to be low-end population and therefore not suited for life in the "civilized" cities of China.

The Reconstruction of Baishizhou

I left Bashizhou with tears in my eyes.

For dinner i went back to my own village, where sadly it turns out another of my favorite restaurants has fallen prey to the post-corona economic downturn. The government doesn't want to report on it, but anecdotally i can see the working class are struggling as exports drop and consumption drops, factory work disappears, migrant workers go home, the markets they shop at disappear, the restaurants they eat at disappear...

I went to a Hunan style place and got mapo tofu and a beer. Then went to a tongsui place to get a sea coconut, pearl sago and coconut juice dessert.

I will miss the urban villages of Shenzhen. I will miss the neon lights, the smoke, the smells, the water dripping from above, the rats and the roaches. Actually, i won't miss the roaches. But still. I will miss the grime. The maze of alleys. The local accents. The honest food. If i ever return to Shenzhen, i guess most of these places will be gone.
Tags: china

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