In an ongoing story that is by turns sad and inspiring, a small community outside of Kunming is coping with the reality of modern China in a curious way. In response to a government order to raze their town, nearly every married couple in Yangcao'ao Village (秧草凹村) has filed for divorce over the past week.
Last month, the municipal government of Guandu District announced Yangcao'ao faced imminent demolition to make way for a planned industrial zone near Kunming Changshui International Airport. The 'removal date' was announced May 13, and required all villagers to leave with their belongings in 25 days or less.
Residents were offered compensation packages, which included new — and by official estimates, vastly more valuable — apartments in Chenggong. Similar situations across China sporadically lead to protests, as well as the odd occurrence of nail houses. However, in 300 year-old Yangcao'ao, there was no public outcry or rabble-rousing sit-in. Instead, villagers came up with a land-grab of their own.
If single residents were each to receive a newly built apartment in another part of town — while married couples were limited to one co-owned dwelling — shouldn't a divorced couple be compensated with two homes? This still-unanswered question led first one, and then several dozen other couples to file for divorce. Earlier this week, more than 20 couples, some of them in their 90s, had their marriages dissolved. In one extreme case, a husband and wife whose wedding certificate was lost in a fire 45 years ago, found it necessary to apply for a new document. Upon obtaining the proper registration, they then immediately filed for divorce.
Whether or not this strategy will prove successful remains to be seen. Officials familiar with the situation who were interviewed by The Spring City Evening News remain doubtful, and cite a nebulous legal precedent. "Those couples who separated legally before this rush of divorces began, did not have their hukou [Chinese household registration document] divided. They are not eligible to get two homes, so neither are the new divorcees," said one administrator.
Such declarations aside, people in Yangcao'ao Village continue to file for divorce in the hope of striking it rich, leading some residents to mourn what they characterize as the trashing of a traditional pillar of Chinese society. However, for others, the phenomenon is joked about, even by some who were once married for decades. "Now he can legally find a mistress," mused an elderly woman of her former husband.
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