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Safety First for Urban Villagers

Xin Guo, 27, is generally satisfied with the house he rents in an "urban village" in Tangxia, Guangzhou.

The building has good sanitation and security. However, the flat is rather small and the area is congested with other buildings blocking his view.

"My flat is no more than 30 sq m and contains a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom, so you can well imagine how small it is," he said.

"The building opposite is no more than an arm's length away.

"Nevertheless, I prefer staying here than move to a bigger house at a similar rent, about 600 yuan (US$80) a month," Xin said.

Urban villages, located in downtown areas, used to be rural villages before giving way to urban expansion. They are comparatively independent from other urban areas and public facilities, and are characterized by dirty streets, poor public disorder, and densely erected buildings.

Xin said his house in Tangxia is much safer than similar rentals elsewhere in Guangzhou.

"I rented houses in four different urban villages in Guangzhou before I moved here two years ago. I came across criminal activities on several occasions," he said.

"Tangxia is different. My building is equipped with an electronic locking device and closed-circuit television."

Huang Guohe, an official with the Tangxia street 0ffice of the Guangzhou Tianhe district government, attributed the good order in the village to the management introduced by Hu Shenghua and Yan Wendou.

Hu used to be a high-school teacher in Hubei Province before he moved to Guangzhou, while Yan, is an odd-job worker.

Having experienced the social problems in Tangxia after they moved there in 2003, they persuaded their landlord to let them manage the building.

Other tenants of the building speak highly of their management style.

Landlords of the more than 40 other buildings noticed the change, and hired Hu and Yan to manage their properties for them.

"With their involvement, security has been tightened," Huang said.

"Not a single social disorder case has been reported in the past two years."

(China Daily August 28, 2007)

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