Facing change

Updated: 2013-09-11 00:37

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Facing change

The Shichahai area is a popular tour site crowded with visitors every day.

"We've heard that the houses near the lakes are nearly 400,000 yuan per square meter," says Ma's wife Meng Zhaohui. "But it's not a money issue. We spent our whole lives here. We don't want to leave our roots."

According to the couple, it's not the first time plans were made to renovate the area. Around 2000, a real estate company came to visit the households of Baimixiejie Hutong, intending to build shopping malls there.

"My neighbors told me not to repair houses because maybe we would be asked to move out the next day," recalls Ma. "But this is my home and I have the duty to maintain it."

Local official Sun says he understands why people are worried, acknowledging that recent large-scale demolitions have wiped out many hutong communities.

The government, he says, believes that "the Shichahai area will have a new look while maintaining its own identity".

For local residents, the Shichahai area is already losing its original charm. "Today the area is very noisy," says Wei Lianyu, 50, who was born and raised in Baimixiejie Hutong.

The public toilet, Wei says, was the first five-star toilet in Beijing with air conditioning and infrastructure. But as more tourists came, the toilet became very dirty, he says, and there are long lines on weekends.

Wei's family lives in a courtyard shared by five families. He says that in his childhood, he knew everyone living in the hutong and they shared food and helped each other. Today he doesn't know new arrivals in the neighborhood.

"We will miss our old neighbors if we have to move to the Huilongguan area of the north Sixth Ring Road," he says. "We have lived here for generations. We don't want to leave. We hope that they can find a balanced way."

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