Thirteen years ago, villagers were relocated from their hometown in Heilongjiang to make way for a reservoir needed to supply drinking water for Harbin. Dissatisfied with the compensation offered them, they moved back in and have been in a stand-off with authorities for the past decade. They now live in legal limbo, as the village was erased from maps in 1998 and no longer officially exists. The Telegraph reports:
“I talked to those government people, and they said, ‘there’s nothing here, look on the map, you don’t exist’,” said a 76-year-old village elder, Xiao Yongting, “So I replied, ‘well, if we don’t exist, what are we? An independent nation state?”
This story of bravado in the face of officialdom, delivered by the old man as he cracked sunflower seeds expertly between his two remaining teeth, raises a round of appreciative snorts from the fellow villagers.
But the seditious cackles disguises the limits of the villagers’ victory: for all their defiance, the government officials are factually correct; in the eyes of the all-powerful Chinese bureaucracy the inhabitants of Blue Dragon Mountain don’t exist as they have no ID cards and no resident’s papers.
Without these documents they must live in limbo, unable even to buy a train ticket, or check into a hotel (ID card required), which makes long-distance travel all but impossible; they also cannot open a bank account, apply for rural medical insurance, take a job with a registered company or enrol in a university.