Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cutting Off Access to the Wall

It was surprising to find that almost two weeks ago the Miyun government shut down the Simatai section of the Great Wall until further notice.

On top of that, the authorities have told the villagers in the area to move out. While it is a suggestion rather than an order, there was no mention of compensation in the open letter issued June 16.

The letter didn't explain the reason for the closure or the length of time involved, only that there would be some reconstruction in the area.

It added that the government started cooperating with China CYTS Tours Holding Co. Ltd. last month and that investments would be made to develop tourism resources in the near future.

The closure has undoubtedly resulted in a serious impact on local businesses in the area, farmers who had opened up small restaurants and even lodgings for visitors. This could impact the Liu family who I met in early May, as the son has a bed & breakfast as well as a restaurant.

"Only two tables in my restaurant were filled today at lunch. Last year, there was a queue that went out of the door," said the owner of a roadside restaurant next to the Simatai scenic area.

"Some restaurants with worse locations are facing an even dire situation with a complete lack of customers since the closure," he said.

Rumours are abound among villagers in the area, speculating what the changes may be, including the possibility Simatai could become more like the Badaling section; the touristy area not only has a rebuilt wall, but also a sad collection of hungry bears waiting for visitors to throw food at them and a bizarre slide.

This ad hoc management of the area without consulting the residents or businesses is a good example of how the government manages things. While enterprising people may have put in tens of thousands of renminbi into restaurants and bed & breakfasts, there is little care or respect for them and their welfare.

These people are only trying to better their economic situation and then when the government sees they are making profits -- not wads of cash, but a better living than toiling in the fields, the authorities want to shut everyone else down in order to monopolize on the burgeoning businesses.

The Great Wall doesn't need more crass touristy sites. When visitors see the wall, they want to see as much of the real thing as possible, not bears or fake trees. That's why they come to Simatai.

Hopefully these local government officials will be reined in soon, but it looks like they have the upper hand when it comes to making their GDP performances look good than encourage more local businesses to flourish.

No comments: