Chinese Villagers Struggle to Subsist After Being Forcibly Relocated by Authorities

August 31, 2020 Updated: August 31, 2020

The “Cliff Village” in Liangshan prefecture, Sichuan Province, is one of many hamlets in southwestern China where the Yi ethnic minority live.

The Yi people live much like how their ancestors did: in the mud houses that they’ve built, while subsisting on what grows in the mountains or on the small farm plots they cultivate.

The village is so named because of the nearly vertical cliff where they live. In order to travel to the town below, villagers use unsteady rattan ladders built long ago.

The Chinese regime in recent months has sought to relocate Yi villagers to modern housing in the town, under its stated goal of lifting the entire country out of poverty by 2020. Beijing has dubbed its plan a “poverty alleviation” project.

Authorities’ forcible relocations have uprooted their traditional lifestyle, villagers who spoke to The Epoch Times said. Meanwhile, villagers are required to pay for the cost of relocation—a hefty sum for families who have lived off the land for generations.

According to state media reports, local authorities began relocating villagers to newly built apartments below the cliff in May.

However, many villagers have found it difficult to find jobs in the new neighborhood, and couldn’t afford to pay the relocation fees—furthering their hardships.

Difficult Life

Akemoya (a pseudonym) and his five family members were relocated to a new apartment this year, which was about 100 square meters (1,076 square feet). He has to pay 2,500 yuan ($364) per person to authorities for the apartment.

Because the cost of over 10,000 yuan ($1,456) is burdensome for his family, Akemoya said he had to borrow the amount.

“I haven’t been able to return the money.”

Akemoya, 27, is worried about how he will make a living in the new town, as he has never been to school and has no technical skills for a job in modern society. He has a wife and two children.

He said his ancestors have lived on mountainside villages for many generations.

“We live on farming and are self-sufficient,” he said.

His family raises a small herd of chickens, pigs, and cows.

“If nothing major happens in the village, we have enough to eat and enough to clothe ourselves.”

Chalier (a pseudonym) doesn’t like his new life, but says he has no choice.

“We were not willing to move, but you do what the government says,” he told The Epoch Times in a phone interview.

Local authorities also assigned him an apartment of 100 square meters (about 1,070 square feet) for his family of four. To pay for the relocation fee, he had to sell his cattle and goats.

Chalier currently works part-time at local construction sites.

“It pays only 100 yuan ($14.56) a day to work on the construction site. Most of the time, I cannot find a job, so I just stay put. This year’s pandemic has stopped us from going out. Now it’s just living one day at a time. There’s no other way.”

Before, his family ate whatever they grew. There was no fixed income from year to year, but there was always enough.

Now, however, he said he doesn’t make enough from his construction job to afford to buy vegetables, which have risen in price recently.

“At home, there is everything in the field. It doesn’t cost any money.”

Village Turned Into Tourist Site

Akemoya said local authorities are planning to build a tourist site in his old village.

“It’s possible that all villagers will be relocated.” He said there are about 70 to 80 households still living on the cliffside.

He added that authorities are prohibiting villagers to build traditional mud houses and have begun demolishing the old houses of those who have relocated.

He believes life will be difficult in the future, and called the authorities’ plans a “face-saving project” that doesn’t truly improve their lives.

“I just don’t want to owe people money. When my kids go to school in the future, I don’t want to owe tuition,” he said. “That’s all I’m asking.”