Hero of the Week: Yang Wu and Wu Ping

February 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

Today I came across a set of articles featuring a Chinese couple that put their feet down to a big development project, and won (kind of). Admittedly, the story is old, like 2004 old, but the relevance of their stance still holds significant today.

In 2004, when local developers in Chongqing, China came for the house of Yang Wu and his wife, Wu Ping, they… refused to move…the Chinese couple came up with a much more aggressive solution: break into their condemned house and refuse to leave.

Their home became known as ‘nail house’ because their modest two-story brick home became ‘nailed’ smack-dab in the middle of a multi-million dollar development project, preventing it from moving forward.

Yang Wu and his wife Wu Ping refused to be moved out of their home and would fight, literally, to keep what was rightfully theirs. The couple refused offers to be bought out of their home despite the harsh land seizure practices that the Chinese government often carries out in the name of developers.

Entry to the locked construction site had been barred, but Yang used nunchakus to fashion a makeshift staircase from the construction pit, which is 10 meters deep, to his home, where he proudly unfurled both his patriotism and words of protest.

His wife, the spokesperson for the family, told China Central Television that, before climbing his way back into their home to make his one-man stand, Yang vowed to her: “If anyone dares to come up, I’ll beat them back down.”

In the end, the couples home was demolished, but only after a three year fight, a new apartment, and an undisclosed sum of money estimated to be valued around half a million U.S. dollars. Their fight can be an inspiration to all those who have ever stood up for the preservation of their neighborhoods, of historical buildings, and for a sense of ownership in a world increasingly devoid of space for people and families.

In the Midwest and around the world, in an attempt to ‘re-develop’ or ‘re-think’ cities, particularly cities such as Detroit and Cleveland, developers have colluded with municipalities to bulldoze neighborhoods, history, and whole communities sense of belonging. The diaspora of poor people from their neighborhoods is increasingly becoming common practice in an attempt to ‘modernize’, ‘beautify’ or ‘fight blight’ – and other catch-all phrases such as these.

With plans to demolish 10,000 homes in Detroit and over 2,000 homes slated for demolition in Cleveland, with 18,000 properties in the a ‘land-bank’ registry, the future and very fabric of our cities are dependent upon our communities finding our inner Yang Wu and Wu Ping. Standing up for our sense of place and belonging in our cities will be some of the most critical fights our Rust-Belt cities will wage in the coming years.

Related article: Connecticut woman Sussett Kelo

Daniel Brown, Co-Founder of MSCS

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