A series of photos of an apartment building obstructing construction on a massive bridge in China’s southern city of Nanning has created quite a buzz amongst the country’s vast online community. Touching on the sore topic of forced evictions, Internet users quickly seized on the story, amazed that one building could halt work on an entire bridge. It seems, however, that not everything is what it appears to be.
Tales of forced eviction in China have surfaced regularly over the past few years, grabbing international headlines. The story often follows the same plot – the state seizes a piece of property, offers its occupants some meagre form of compensation, thereby sparking discontent. In the end, the state usually comes out on top and the property is razed, sometimes before its occupants have agreed to evacuate.
So, when images of a lone apartment building in the middle of a bridge construction site in Nanning emerged on the Internet on December 26, many believed it followed a similar storyline to past forced evictions. Online media picked up on the buzz, relaying snatches of conversations from social networking sites and discussion forums as fact.
It was reported that construction on the bridge had been halted by the building’s occupants in 2010. Images of the unfinished bridge seemed to confirm this version of the things – one can see the top of the apartment building appears to be taller than the concrete pylons on either side of it, making further construction on the byway impossible.
The images caused such a stir that China’s state news agency Xinhua was forced to run an article to explain the situation. According to Xinhua, the apartment building serves as temporary housing for construction workers, and will eventually be torn down in order for the bridge to be completed.
The Observers Team contacted a journalist at the local newspaper Dang Dai Sheng Huo Bao, who also claimed the rumours were false, saying construction on the bridge had continued as normal. The journalist explained that confusion over the images could be linked to an article published in the newspaper in 2010, which reported that work on another bridge in Nanning had stopped in 2004 over financing issues and conflicts with landowners.
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