Residents of a newly completed apartment block in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province noticed recently that the ceilings in their bedroom, living room and corridors were crumbling at the slightest touch.

After some prodding, the whole edifice came down on their heads, revealing their upstairs neighbours’ home.

According to the building’s owners, there was a problem with the “sediment concentration” of the floor, which was later reconstructed.

The families dwelling both above and below the crumbling ceiling, meanwhile, were given RMB25,000 (HK$30,483) in compensation

Discussion online decried the building’s construction as yet another example of China’s “tofu-dreg projects,” referring to pieces of shoddy workmanship that might crumble at any moment.

When the 8.0-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake struck in 2008, more than 69,000 people were killed in the north of the province, many of them buried under the rumble of buildings that failed to withstand the 8.0-magnitude quake.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei earned the ire of mainland authorities by recruiting a volunteer crew to compile names of students who perished in the earthquake due to substandard school campus construction. Information from Ai’s “Citizens’ Investigation” was published online on the artist’s blog.

After being beaten by Chengdu police for trying to testify for a fellow investigator, Ai was placed under house arrest, had his Shanghai studio demolished and was barred from leaving the country until recently.

“Even if there’s a small earthquake again,” the top comment on Sina News observed, “people will definitely die. Before, the Japanese killed Chinese; now we just do it to ourselves.”


Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick is a local writer, journalist and editor. Formerly National Online Editor for the That's magazine group in China, his work on the history and politics of the region has earned him the CEFC Award in Modern China Studies and has also appeared in China Economic Review, Asian Studies Review, China Green News, e-International Relations, Shanghaiist and various publications at his alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, where he is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme.