Cai Quandong stands on the ruins of what once was his home in Sanya in south China’s Hainan Province. Some 2,000 people who had lived in one of the city’s largest slum areas returned home after the Spring Festival holiday to scenes of devastation following a massive government demolition project. (Source: Shanghaidaily) 
A SHANTY town of hundreds of shacks was stealthily pulverized by a local government in Sanya, Hainan Province, which called them a fire risk.
The Xinhua news agency reported that the government undertook the surprise demolition coded "Hammer" on January 19, just before the Spring Festival, when most slum residents had already gone home for family reunions.
When they returned after the festival, they came upon a scene of utter devastation.
In a Xinhua photo carried on Monday’s Shanghai Daily, we saw a small boy, wearing only a shirt, standing on ruins that were once his home. His father picks through the rubble to salvage some articles that can still be used.
This cheap housing was first set up in the late 1990s when peasants from Danzhou in the northern part of the island discovered that raising pigs in Sanya was much more profitable than eking out a subsistence from the salty, meager soil at home.
Some also collected recyclable materials and were engaged in transport.
The slum area once contained 308 households, covering 30,000 square meters, and supplying shelter and livelihood for some 2,000 people.
The local government claimed that demolition proceeded from the best of intentions.
In an explanation given by the government on Monday evening, the slum is said to pose a fire risk, cause environmental pollution, and was difficult to manage.
Since these makeshift shelters were mostly made of wood planks, bamboo and other flammable materials, they might pose a serious fire hazard, particularly during the Spring Festival season when many firecrackers and fireworks were set off.
The local government would be held responsible if such an accident occurred.
But since this plan for benevolent demolition was unappreciated and vehemently resisted by the residents, the government decided to go it alone, taking preemptive action by pulverizing these slum shelters at a time when resistance was weak.
Is the local government now responsible for providing for the residents made homeless and jobless?
Of course not.
The government is "under no obligation to compensate," as these people are outsiders whose slum shelters were unauthorized from the very beginning, officials said.
Compensating them would encourage others to follow suit, the government explained.
"The sanitary conditions are extremely poor in the slum where there is no sewage system. The whole lot is littered with garbage, pig excrement, waste water, and the pervasive stench is overwhelming, raising concern for infectious disease," according to the official explanation.
Here I wonder whether fear of infectious disease might not lead the government to take similarly peremptory action by exterminating the immediate source of contagion, human life.
Few Chinese will buy official excuses for inflicting destruction. For those cognizant of the gap between what officials claim to be and what they really are, the real explanation is not difficult to find.
The shanty town had not been set up overnight, but had stood there for more than 10 years. Over that time the local government had been quite indifferent to the firs risk and stench, allowing the shanty town to expand to more than 300 households – and then suddenly official tolerance evaporated.
One Xinhua photo of the scene of devastation provides a clue to the answer. It shows a small girl in front of the ruins of her home, while the background is dominated by several towering high rises.
As a matter of fact, local government revenue from increasingly profitable real estate projects is the key to comprehending nearly all the bewildering occurrences in China today, not least in Hainan island, which saw one of most spectacular real estate crashes in modern China during the late 1990s.

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