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January 14, 2010

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'Avatar' viewed in 4th dimension

WHILE most of the global audience are enjoying the 3D experience of Hollywood blockbuster "Avatar," some Chinese see it from a very different angle: a successful battle against forced eviction.

James Cameron's "Avatar" tells the story of an ex-Marine sent to infiltrate a race of aliens and persuade them to let his employer mine their homeland.

In China, the story has aroused a sympathetic response among many spectators, as they see in the film a familiar social conflict - forced demolitions by real estate developers and urban administrative inspectors.

"They are very much alike. For instance, the conflict in the film also starts with land," a posting by "A Cup of Green Tea" said in an online forum operated by Xinhua news agency Website.

Forced demolitions have always led to opposition and resistance from local residents in China and this gave rise to the term "nail households," as in nails that stick out and are hard to remove.

In southwest China's Chongqing, a couple battled for three years from 2004 to 2007 to stop developers from razing their home.

In June 2008, Pan Rong and her husband stood on the roof of their house in Shanghai and threw Molotov cocktails at an approaching bulldozer, but the couple were still forced out.

And last November, 47-year-old Tang Fuzhen set herself on fire to protest at the demolition of her house in Chengdu. She later died.

In those cases, the local governments insisted that the demolitions were lawful.

"I am wondering whether Cameron had secretly lived in China before coming up with such an idea of writing the story of 'Avatar,'" said soccer reporter Li Chengpeng in a blog on "In a word, I think the film is a successful eulogy of the fight of nail households against forced demolitions."

The existing demolition regulation took effect in 2001, allowing forced demolition. The government has finished a draft revision to the regulation putting more restrictions on the government's administrative power in demolition procedures.

"A Cup of Green Tea" wrote: "I strongly advise real estate developers and urban administrative inspectors to see the movie and learn from it."


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