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Deconstructing Demolitions

JAN . 11 2011

Peking University, Jan. 10, 2011: Li Chengpeng, author of China's first novel on demolition - Anti-demolition Story of Li Keyue - claimed himself as a "worried man," that his book may be banned before it sells too many.

 

The soccer commentator known for his investigative book Inside Story of Chinese Soccer has again turned his attention to yet another sensitive issue - forced demolition. This rampant social problem of 2010 often involves blood and violence, and the book, released on the afternoon of Jan. 6 at Peking University, is bound to attract a lot of interest.

 

Li Chengpeng at the ceremony (Chinanews.com.cn)

 

From the very first line - "Ever since I got mental illness, I felt much better" - the novel is a biting satire. It tells the story of Li Keyue, who used to suffer from depression and then turned into a nail householder fighting against city inspectors determined to pull down houses in Dingxiang Street.

 

From being nobody, after witnessing numerous demolitions, conflicts, injuries, self-immolation, mental hospital scenes and tragic events, Li Keyue turns into a spiritual leader on the path of resistance - resistance against the forced demolitions of people's dwellings.

 

Eventually the protagonist comes up with a non-violent method to stop demolitions: hiding all the ID cards and property ownership certificates of 700 households so that they can't sign the demolition contracts with the developer.

 

The novel is inspired by Tang Fuzhen setting herself on fire when the local government tried to bulldoze her home in Chengdu of southwest China's Sichuan province on Nov. 13, 2009.

 

Enraged by the incident, Li wrote a blog sharply criticizing the demolition regulation. It scored enormous hits, but was soon deleted. Li then thought of writing a novel, because only a novel can provide space enough for articulating all his ideas on forced demolition and possible solutions.

 

Shortly after he finished the novel's first draft on Dec. 12, 2010, another demolition incident involving the death of Qian Yunhui, a village head in Leqing, Zhejiang province, triggered nationwide uproar and netizens flocked to the village to find out the real reason behind the traffic accident.

 

Cover of Anti-demolition Story of Li Keyue.

 

A veteran commentator at 42, Li has published two novels and four compilations of essays on soccer and romance. He is also a thought leader on the Internet, having 500,000 viewers for each blog post and 1.7 million fans on Sina Weibo.

 

Outspoken writers and critics gave high marks to his new novel. Hong Huang, author and fashion publisher, said it wasn't easy to get the book published under the prevailing circumstances as it is closely linked to a societal reality.

 

"Writers should get 'out of the closet,' as they are used to concealing their real feelings and intentions," she said.

 

Mai Jia, author of the award-winning novel Covert Operations, said Li's unpretentious ridicule holds up an alternative style to the conventional aesthetics of fiction writing. "His focus is not only demolition. He has also dismantled traditional literature," he said.

 

The critics and writers who commented on his novel are acutely aware of the deep-rooted problem behind the violent scenes portrayed.

 

Actually, the increasing number of forced demolition cases is caused by the “Chinese model,” a State-led model for rapid economic development, said Wang Keqin, investigative reporter of the China Economic Times.

 

"Under this model, national interest is placed above personal interest. In fact, relocation is a pain faced by a lot of people at the same time," he said, adding that the unsound system contributed to the crisis.

 

Wang Xiaoshan, Li Chengpeng, Gao Xiaosong, Wang Keqin, and Zhong Rujiu at the discussion (Dongfang Daily/Xu Diye)

 

Zhong Rujiu, whose family members set themselves on fire to protest demolition in Yihuang county of Fuzhou city, Fujian province on Sept. 10, 2010, hopes that forced demolitions would stop after the new law is released.

 

"I wish people live peacefully in their homes, without worrying that bulldozers may raze their houses at any time," she said at the book launch.

 

Li, who always shows a strong sense of justice and is skilled in elaborating his views, said that literature is supposed to reflect real situation.

 

"Writing a novel is only a pose for me, and I will always defend my disguise," he said.

 

 

Book tag: Anti-demolition Story of Li Keyue, Li Chengpeng, 272 pp, Beijing Xiron Books, RMB28 ($4.23)

 

 

Reported by: Zhang Lei

Source: Global Times