China relocates villagers living in 800m-high cliffs in anti-poverty drive

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BEIJING:       They used to call an 800m-high cliff home, but dozens of villagers in China’s Sichuan province have now been relocated to an urban housing estate.
Atulie’er village became famous after photos emerged showing adults and children precariously scaling the cliff using just rattan ladders.
Around 84 households have now been moved into newly built flats as part of a local poverty alleviation campaign.
It’s part of a bigger national campaign to end poverty by the end of 2020.
Atulie-er village made headlines in 2016 when it was revealed that its villagers had to scale precarious ladders to get home, carrying babies and anything the village needed.
Soon afterwards the government stepped in and replaced these with steel ladders.
The households have now been moved to the county town of Zhaojue, around 70km away.
They will be rehoused in furnished apartment blocks, which come in models of 50, 75 and 100 sq m – depending on the number of people in each household.
It’ll be a big change for many of these villagers, who are from the Yi minority and have lived in Atulie-er for generations.
Photos on Chinese state media showed villagers beaming, one of them telling state media outlet CGTN that he was “so happy that I got a good house today”.
According to Mark Wang, a human geography professor at the University of Melbourne, such housing schemes are often heavily subsidised by the government, typically up to 70%. However, in some instances families have been unable to afford the apartments despite the subsidies.
“For some really poor villages, the 30% may still be difficult for them to pay, so they end up having to borrow money – [ironically] causing them even more debt,” he told BBC News.
“For the poorest, it’s a big financial burden and so in some instances, they might have to stay.”
According to Chinese state media outlet China Daily, each person will have to pay 2,500 yuan ($352; £288) for this particular move – so for a family of four, the cost would come up to 10,000 yuan.