In the 1980s, Yu Youzhen was merely an ordinary vegetable farmer in Wuhan City Hongshan District Donghu Village Huojiawa who, after years of building and additions, came to possess three 5-storey private buildings, most of which were rented out. In 2008, Yu Youzhen chanced upon [government policies for] the requisition, demolition, and redevelopment of land [mostly takes place in rural areas, where when a peasant’s land is expropriated by the government and the peasant is compensated for it with new houses or apartments in other locations] and was successively given 21 apartments [for her previous property]. Yu Youzhen personally witnessed some of her fellow villagers not engaging themselves in decent activities after being compensated with multiple apartments, falling into gambling, and even drug use. In order to set a good example for her children, from 1998 onwards, the now landless Yu Youzhen went to Wuchang District Chengguan Bureau to work as a sanitation worker, with a 1,420 yuan monthly salary, only one day off each week, and having to arrive for work 3 every morning.
[Above] Yu Youzhen is a contract worker for the Wuchang District Chengguan Bureau Cleaning Team, with a 1,420 yuan monthly wage. Her household had 21 apartments in total but later successively sold 4 of them, with 17 left. Calculated according to market prices, she is literally a “millionaire woman”. This picture is of January 2, in Wuhan, of “rich woman” sanitation worker Mrs. Yu cleaning the street.
Yu Youzhen is responsible for the sanitation of an approximately 3,000-meter long stretch of road, sweeping along its length back and forth 6 hours every day, wiping and washing 8 trashcans. Since it’s cold outside, a thin layer of ice forms on the surface of the trashcan that as Yu Youzhen just bent down to wipe with a wet rag.
In the 1980s, Yu Youzhen was a vegetable grower in Hongshan District Donghu Village Huojiawan. She and her husband worked from dawn to night to make and save money, becoming the first family to build a 3-storey private house in Huojiawan. With more and more people coming to work in Wuhan from out of town, Yu Youzhen used the spare rooms for rental. By the early 1990s, each room could bring in 50 yuan each month. After saving this money, she built more buildings and added more floors, and over several years, she had three 5-storey buildings, most of which used for rentals. She said that during those years, the regulations on constructing buildings in rural areas were loose, and everyone built houses. What she didn’t expect was that in 2008, the [policies of] requisitioning and redevelopment of land began, and she was successively given 21 apartments [as compensation for her requisitioned and redeveloped buildings]. Later on, she sold 4 of them.
From 1998 onwards, the now landless Yu Youzhen went to the Wuchang District Chengguan Bureau to work as a sanitation worker, with only one day off each week, and having to arrive for work at 3 in the morning. Although later she became a “rich woman”, she still hasn’t put down her broom. In her work, people often give her cold looks, but she still loves what she does. Many of her co-workers in the cleaning team don’t understand: “Mrs. Yu’s family is so rich, yet still she comes to put up with this suffering!” To this, Yu Youzhen has her own explanation: “I want to set an example for my son and daughter, a person can’t just sit at home and ‘eat away’ a whole fortune.”
Yu Youzhen witnessed with her own eyes some of her fellow villagers getting up to no good after getting multiple apartments from their land being requisitioned [by the government], indulging themselves in gambling, even drug use. She has already put the word out to her son and daughter: “If you don’t work, I’ll donate the apartments to the country.”
Now, her son works as a driver in the Donghu Scenic Area, making an over 2,000 yuan monthly salary. Her daughter too is an office worker, with an over 3,000 yuan monthly salary.