Xian Village was founded during the Song Dynasty, over 800 years ago. By the middle of the Ming Dynasty it grew into a busy village a few miles from the port town of Guangzhou. As recently as twenty years ago, the residents of Xian village still tilled the fields and fished for a living.
China's economic reforms and the emergence of Guangzhou as a modern mega-city changed everything for Xian village. As Guangzhou grew, it started to encroach upon Xian and by the early 1990s the city started to execute a plan to turn Xian village and its neighbors into the city's new urban core. The village government started to rent out its land to developers. Families that used to farm the land had to retreat to an area the size of a city block. In 2009, the village government announced plans to demolish this urban village. Some families quickly signed compensation agreements, many others decided to fight the eviction.
The redevelopment plan, they argued, would deprive them of the income they earned from renting apartments. It would unjustly enrich a village Party Secretary who had embezzled funds from the village coffers for years. It would leave villagers with no land, with no home to call their own, with only a bland resettlement apartment. It would leave the elderly and the young rootless.