I read this article today on Newsweek's The Daily Beast that controversial artist Ai Weiwei wrote about his Beijing. I spent some time in Beijing in 2009 and had a tough time adjusting.
For the most part I felt very uneasy and I spent my time with expats who had the income to afford a westernized lifestyle. It's only now that I can appreciate my time there and understand what living in Beijing actually means for the Chinese people who have such a seemingly bleak future in a giant city that doesn't much care for individuality.
The City: Beijing
Ai Weiwei finds China’s capital is a prison where people go mad.
Beijing is two cities. One is of power and of money. People don’t care who their neighbors are; they don’t trust you. The other city is one of desperation. I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope. They can’t even imagine that they’ll be able to buy a house. They come from very poor villages where they’ve never seen electricity or toilet paper.
Every year millions come to Beijing to build its bridges, roads, and houses. Each year they build a Beijing equal to the size of the city in 1949. They are Beijing’s slaves. They squat in illegal structures, which Beijing destroys as it keeps expanding. Who owns houses? Those who belong to the government, the coal bosses, the heads of big enterprises. They come to Beijing to give gifts—and the restaurants and karaoke parlors and saunas are very rich as a result.
Beijing tells foreigners that they can understand the city, that we have the same sort of buildings: the Bird’s Nest, the CCTV tower. Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business. But they deny us basic rights. You will see migrants’ schools closed. You will see hospitals where they give patients stitches—and when they find the patients don’t have any money, they pull the stitches out. It’s a city of violence.
click to continue reading the original article..
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Krista Jahnke lives and works in Vancouver, BC and likes to ask