Banding Together

This week, we learned of two particularly inspiring cases of eviction defense, one by rural Chinese villagers and another by urban Chinese-Americans.

For eight months now, the residents of Zhuguosi, a village in southwestern China, have circled their town each night to prevent demolition crews from entering. With the government planning on pushing 250 million rural Chinese residents into cities in the next decade, people all around the country have been protesting this forced relocation and the implications it has for their lifestyle. This is merely one particularly inspiring example of a village vying for self-determination amidst the largest peacetime population transfer in history.

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And closer to home, in San Francisco’s Chinatown, anti-eviction activists, Chinese-American organizers, , and neighbors got together last week to defend the home of Gum Gee Lee and Poon Heung Lee. The elderly couple has been living in their home for 34 years along with their adult daughter who has disabilities. A new developer has bought all the other tenants out of the building, but when the couple refused the offer, the new owner resorted to Ellis Act eviction procedures. The Ellis Act allows developers to skirt many tenants’ rights regulations if they no longer plan to rent the units out after the evictions. Due to loopholes in San Francisco’s condo laws, many developers have been able to use this policy as a tool to evict tenants in lower cost housing in order to erect higher price condos.  In fact, in just the past year, there have been over 100 Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco. Tired of this process, over one hundred people gathered at the home of Gum Gee Lee and Poon Heung Lee last Wednesday to prevent the sheriffs from entering the premises. They were able to keep the sheriffs away without sustaining any arrests. The cops will not announce their next planned eviction date, leaving the family highly precarious, but last week’s victory certainly indicates the amount of support they have. Gum Gee Lee spoke at the action last week through a Cantonese interpreter and underlined the severity of the situation when he said, “I have no idea where we can live if we have to leave here.” Later that day, a spokesperson from the Sheriff’s office said, “we certainly don’t want anybody going without a place to live, but we have our orders.” We know all too well that the sheriff’s will not change course based on the realities of Gum Gee Lee and Poon Heung Lee’s lives, so we will do our best to show up next time they come to follow their orders.


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For more information about the forced relocation of 250 million rural Chinese citizens:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/world/asia/as-chinese-farmers-fight-for-homes-suicide-is-ultimate-protest.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/world/asia/pitfalls-abound-in-chinas-push-from-farm-to-city.html?pagewanted=all

For more information about Gum Gee Lee and Poon Heung Lee’s fight against eviction:

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Tech-boom-forcing-longtime-S-F-family-out-of-home-4843955.php#photo-5235815

http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/09/san_francisco_chinese_couple_wins_eviction_reprieve.html

For more information about the Ellis Act: http://www.sftu.org/ellis.html

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