Residents in China’s central Henan Province are still fighting for displacement subsidies of up to $162 per person, more than a month after a devastating July flood.
Heavy rain fell in Henan from July 17 to July 20. Floods affected half of Weihui City’s 600,000 residents, displacing roughly one-third of the population.
On August 25, at least 1,000 locals gathered in front of the government office complex, demanding that officials compensate them for their losses and explain why subsidies were delayed. However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mayor of Weihui told residents’ representatives to leave and did not provide a timetable for issuing displacement subsidies.
Mr. Lin (an alias) is a Weihui resident and the proprietor of two restaurants. On August 25, he was one of the petitioners in front of the local government.
According to Lin, Weihui was flooded not by heavy rains, but by floodwaters released from dams without warning by the local government. He also claimed that local officials did not assist flood victims.
On August 19, the CCP’s official propaganda outlet Xinhua News Agency reported that China’s State Council had formed an investigation work team to investigate the July flooding disaster.
Lin stated that both of his restaurants were flooded, resulting in a total loss of $15,500, but he is aware of people who suffered far greater losses.
For example, the frozen foods wholesaler from whom he used to buy meats had three warehouses and had lost over $150,000 in total.
Lin was told by wholesaler employees that all of the frozen meats in the warehouses had spoiled, and she had to spend nearly $5,000 to have the bad meats disposed of.
“She was a lovely lady who always chatted with us when we went shopping for meats. Lin lamented, “She just sits there, looking dazed and delirious.”
Not far from Lin’s restaurants was a wholesale Chinese wine shop. “They sell premium wines from China’s best brands. The floods, however, washed away all of his stock in the shop. Lin estimated his loss to be between $460,000 and $620,000.
“In the old urban district, an elderly grandpa, over 70 years old, lived near the spinning mill. He returned home only to discover that there was nothing left for him, and he committed suicide, “Lin explained.
Despite massive property losses and spiritual suffering among local residents, the local government does little to help, according to Lin.
“The government promised to provide a displacement subsidy of $23 per day for a maximum of seven days, but many of us have not received a single cent,” Lin said.
Some residents who received the money are required to return it, either because they do not have hukou (a compulsory household registration system used in China) in Weihui or because their businesses are located on the second floor of buildings.
“The local government claims that the second floor is not flooded, and it is unconcerned about these businesses,” Lin said, adding, “This is a rogue government.”
Lin also accused the mayor of being inept.
“You can’t see Li Jin [the mayor].” There are no disaster relief supplies visible at the displacement sites—she did not distribute the food sent from other locations. Huge quantities of buns and vegetables are simply left to rot. Lin stated, “The government is not working for us.”
Lin recalled, “She finally showed up on August 25, and she only demonstrated her authority.” “She agreed to ease the restrictions on dining in, and then she simply told us to leave.”
When residents returned to the government office complex the next day, they discovered it was heavily guarded by police.
Lin claimed that the Weihui municipal government duped flood victims into entering a stadium and then locking them in before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived for an inspection.
“The officials told the petitioners that the government would provide them with better living conditions, such as a standard hotel room, three free meals, and $15 per day,” Lin said.
“However, petitioners were sent to the stadium, which was wired and locked. Guards were stationed nearby to keep an eye on them. The petitioners were unable to leave and were forced to remain in the empty stadium. “The elderly couldn’t sleep,” Lin explained. They were released after Henan’s premier left.
In addition, the local government has strictly censored online information. People outside of Weihui know very little about what occurred in the city.
“All self-media platforms, as well as Douyin [the Chinese version of TikTok], have been censored. The videos we sent out could only be seen within a few kilometers. Civil rescue teams from across the country arrived in Weihui to offer assistance, and their videos, photos, and posts were deleted, “Lin explained.
We contacted the interviewee again before publishing this article, and he stated that many people have yet to receive the displacement subsidy.
Phone calls to the local Office of Letters and Visits, which is in charge of petitions, for comments and information were not returned by the time this article was published.
The municipal office as well as the local propaganda department “Compensation and post-disaster work are not our responsibility,” said the municipal office. The propaganda department did not respond to requests for comment.