- Posted August 4, 2008 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Beijing Fan Zone
Beijing Heritage Lost
Last year, around this time, my sister and I found ourselves wandering the streets of Beijing on the very night of the one year anniversary marking the start of the games. I thought it would be a great time to take part in the celebration and see what all the hype was about. I went to the square in hopes of seeing part of the ceremonies or officials involved.
Much to my surprise, the entire section of the city had been cordoned off and no one was allowed in unless you had a special invite. I guess the idea of "one world, one dream" looked good in lights as long as the world was kept away. I remember the chaos surrounding the situation as entire areas were blocked off, people had no place to go and tens of thousands of people like myself were being forcibly pushed by the police, screamed at and harassed in a most diminutive manner.
I was only able to get two pictures off before the policeman visible in my last picture approached me, grabbed my camera, physically pushed me against an advertising wall and started threatening me with imprisonment and immediate deportation. I was able to retrieve my camera but not before he had pushed me and my sister along with others further down the street with the help of his colleagues.
It was then I realized that the Olympics were not meant to display what really went on so China could put on a good show. It was all about face and I was not invited to the show so I was nothing to them. I began to realize that the One World of these Olympics would only involve the world that Beijing saw fit. The One Dream was only an dream of the Beijing government and had nothing to do with the people.
I count myself fortunate for these events however as I ducked down a dark alley in hopes of getting to my hotel without further confronting the police. What I saw next changed my life and started a fire inside that will never be quenched.
I found myself walking through a half-demolished district of houses, roads and shops in complete disarray as Beijing was "cleaning house" to put on a great show for the Olympics. What broke my heart was not the century old houses being destroyed so a Starbucks could go up in it's place nor was it the ancient, traditional neighbourhood being bulldozed so souvenir and tourists shops built in a gawdy, traditional manner could be erected.
It was the people I met. The shopowner who nearly broke down in tears when I asked about what was going on. It was the three men who explained that the houses of their fathers and grandfathers, the houses of the births and lives were being destroyed right around them. They had raised families in these houses as the generations before them had done. They had put their time and love into this neighbourhood which included their friends and family.
And now, it was being bulldozed because Beijing's World and Dream did not include them. Their neighbourhood was being destroyed as they were being moved more than 10-15 miles away. Their livelihoods were being destroyed as shopowners had to close their doors. Their current lives were being destroyed as they now lived behind large advertising boards erected around their neighbourhood to hide its current condition. The same advertising boards being erected were the ones displaying the Starbucks and Nike stores and McDonald's which would be built in its place.The advertising boards they had to see every day as a reminder that they were not a part of Beijing's World and Dream.
I saw men sleeping on chairs where their houses used to stand. I saw men having dinner on the spot of their old friend's house while sitting on concrete blocks and using a wooden spindle as a table. I saw men, women and families being moved from a prime downtown location in a major international city and given an old apartment as compensation. I saw men broken by the government that proclaimed One World, One Dream.
One World, One Dream? I think a more appropriate slogan would be Beijing's World, Beijing's Dream and we're buying it.