Is This the End of China’s Courtyards and Residential Areas?

Government plans to stop building residential areas in China’s cities and to gradually open up existing private compounds to the public have caused much discussion on Sina Weibo. Does the new measurement mean a final end to China’s ubiquitous residential areas?

Residential compounds and courtyards are an intrinsic part of China’s cities. Most living areas in cities like Beijing have countless of residential zones, where residents can come in through an automatic gate with their pass, or where the guard will open the fence after checking identification. The residential areas are all different, depending on their living fees, but many have 24-hour on-site security and a playground for children.

Since these areas are officially not open to the public, people who do not live there have to drive, cycle or walk around them to get to destinations on the other side.

Recently, central authorities have proposed new plans to popularise building street blocks rather than closed-off residential areas, and to open up the existing residential areas to the public and to build public roads within them. The topic became trending on Sina Weibo on February 23rd, with thousands of netizens discussing the future plans.

weibo trending

As reported by SCMP, lawyers say the new measures to force private areas to open to the public are “illegal”, since it infringes on residents’ property rights.

One of the most popular comments in one responding news thread says: “For this kind of matter, the Party and the government should first take the lead. First, the courtyards of the government, their families and the military should be taken away, including their fences. When that has become a public area, we can go on talking about this.”

“This kind of thinking is just a road to ruin,” one netizen says. Most of Weibo’s netizens seem to be against the government’s recent plans, and wave aside potential advantages of the system, such as the improvement of China’s traffic networks and better land usage.

The Weibo page of Beijing lawyer Wang Yong is also well-visited, as the defense lawyer calls the new plans “another failed attempt to imitate the West.” People respond to the issue and discuss the status quo of the situation: “The distance between the government and the people has become too big,” one commenter says.

“I am against this policy,” another commenter says: “It’s not just easier for thieves to come in, but it’s also more dangerous for our kids to play outside, risking them being kidnapped. What’s the advantage of this? Don’t you know there’s a lot of bad people in China?”

– By Manya Koetse

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