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Demolition of a Symbolic Bulletin Board, the Sanjiaodi, at Peking University

On October 30, a bulletin board, once called Democracy Wall and also called Sanjiaodi, at Peking University was demolished. The wall witnessed decades of significant historical events of Chinese history. Its demolition has received both local and international media attention.

On October 30, a bulletin board, once called the Democracy Wall and also called Sanjiaodi, at Peking University was demolished. The wall witnessed decades of significant historical events of Chinese history. Its demolition has received both local and international media attention.

The Beijing News reported on November 11, 2007:[1]
“Students of Peking University get information on housing/room rentals, lectures, and job openings through the Sanjiaodi bulletin board. Looking for information at Sanjiaodi has become a characteristic of Peking University. Student organizations will put out display boards at Sanjiaodi to announce campus community news.

"Mr. Wu from class of ’99 said that the Sanjiaodi is famous because it’s a place for information sharing and cultural exchange. Wu added, “Having such symbolic role, how can it be demolished so lightly? We cannot forget her place in our heart.”

Xinhua News Agency reported on the same day: [2]
“Peking University’s news spokesperson Zhao Weimin indicated that, the Sanjiaodi bulletin board had been around for many years. The demolition is due to regulation of the campus environment.

"Zhao said with the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games, the campus environment needs an overall renovation. This bulletin board, which was a platform for information dissemination, is not functioning as it should, as it mostly posts housing rentals and other advertisements. As the campus computer network is well developed, information exchange can be done through the network. He said the future site plan for the Sanjiaodi is under discussion.”

Voice of America reported on December 29, 2007: [3]
“Zhao Yong, a Beijing Normal University professor raised a question in his recent article: What is really being demolished at Sanjiaodi? Zhao’s article, in addition to mentioning several concerns regarding the demolition, asked a few more questions: Who made the proposal? Who authorized the demolition? What procedure was followed? Why wasn’t the discussion disclosed? Zhao questions, ‘Isn’t that Sanjiaodi, although no longer a platform for exchange of pure ideas and thoughts, a reflection of an important cultural phenomenon with the contents switching to overwhelming commercial information?’

"Zhao further connected the demolition to the Chinese regime’s ideology of ‘destroying an old world and building a new world.’ In 1957, despite the opposition from renowned architect Liang Sicheng, the Chinese regime dismantled the ancient city wall of Beijing. … In order to build a new Beijing and a new Olympics, Beijing is also making an all out effort to demolish Siheyuan. [4] Not only Beijing, all the cities around the country are demolishing and rebuilding, giving up traditional characteristics."
An article titled ”Peking University’s Sanjiaodi Bulletin Board Fades Out in History” was published by Zaobao (Singapore) on November 12, 2007: [5]
“The demolition of Sanjiaodi did not stir any reaction among the students. If the media had not reported, it would have gone unnoticed.”

“One Peking University graduate of the class of 1981 said that back then all the students would take a look at the bulletin board when they passed by. At that time, there was only one television for each dormitory building. With very few newspapers and magazines available, Sanjiaodi, was on the only way to the classrooms, became part of campus life.”

“The removal of Sanjiaodi is not only for political reasons. Starting from the 1990s, when the Internet became popular, the bulletin board function of Sanjiaodi was replaced by the Internet. A few political dissidents who once studied at Peking University, including several human rights attorneys and political commentators, have  expressed their opinions mostly through the Internet instead of Sanjiaodi.”

“However, the BBS site Yitahutu, through which Peking University students discuss current affairs, fell in the battle earlier than Sanjiaodi. Yitahutu, established in 1999, gained immediate popularity among the students. Its ‘Sanjiaodi‘ online section (following the name of the bulletin board) was famous for free discussion of political affairs. When the site was shut down in 2004, Peking University lost the platform for free expression.”

“Since the university computer network is well developed, any information exchanged or discussed can be done through the network.”

Nanfang Daily reported reactions from students on November 2, 2007: [6]
“The demolition made a great stir at [7] Many students raised questions: who proposed the demolition? Who authorized this? What procedure was followed? Why is everyone in the dark?”

“‘The Weiming Lake, Yabo Tower, Jingyuan Grass Land, and Sanjiaodi are all symbols of Peking University. How can it be casually demolished? Will Yabo Tower be torn down tomorrow?’ asked some students emotionally.”

“October 31 on the BBS, an extensive discussion appeared to be against the demolition. Most people were against the demolition with very few showing support.”
“Many students voiced their opinion that the Democracy Wall has both spiritual and historical significance and their opinion should have been sought and respected before any decision for the demolition was made.

"An internet user said that ‘Sanjiaodi was already dead, but a dead Sanjiaodi still has its historical significance and a special place. How can it be casually destroyed?’

"It’s reported that an electronic board would replace the demolished wall. However many feel that this means the Peking University’s administration will have full control over the information on display and hence restrict any free exchange of information."

[1] Beijing News, November 11, 2007
[2] Xinhua News Agency, Novemerb 11, 2007
[3] Voice of America, December 29, 2007
[4] Siheyuan (四合院) was a type of residence commonly found throughout China, but most famously in Beijing. The name literally means a courtyard surrounded by four buildings. Throughout Chinese history, the siheyuan composition was the basic pattern used for residences, palaces, temples, monasteries, family dwellings, businesses, and government offices. The history of Siheyuan goes as early as the Western Zhou period (1122 BC to 256 BC). Siheyuan carries the most outstanding and fundamental characteristics of Chinese architecture.
[5] Zaobao, November 12, 2007
[6] Nanfang Daily, November 2, 2007
[7] A popular online BBS for Chinese students.