(ECNS) - The removal of a privately built bridge in northeast China's Jilin Province has inconvenienced local villagers, prompting the government to initiate a temporary bridge construction project.
The fixed floating bridge, with an investment of 100,000 yuan (approximately $16,280 in 2014), was built on Taoner River by Huang Deyi, a local from Zhenlin Village, Wafang Town, Taonan City, Jilin Province.
However, the government ordered the dismantling of the bridge and Huang, along with 17 others, were sentenced for their involvement in the privately built bridge, sparking widespread debate online.
In 2014, the fixed floating bridge was privately built, charging five yuan for bicycles, motorcycles, and cars, and 10 yuan for larger vehicles like a truck. These fees were collected by Huang’s relatives positioned at the bridge.
The bridge played a crucial role as a transportation artery for villages on both sides of the Taoer River, facilitating two-way trade, including agricultural cultivation and commodity transportation.
Wang Gang, a retailer in Zhenlin Village, said that the five-yuan fee to cross the bridge was more economical compared to the fuel expenses resulting from an additional 60 to 70 kilometers detour.
In April and September of 2016, as well as November 2017, the Taonan City Water Resources Bureau issued administrative penalty notices and orders for rectification to Huang, imposing a fine of 10,000 yuan (approximately $14,805 in 2017) each time and requiring him to dismantle the private bridge.
In 2018, the local Water Resources Bureau penalized Huang for illegal bridge construction and forcibly ordered the demolition of the floating bridge.
In 2019, Huang and 17 others were sentenced to prison for different terms.
On June 29 this year, the Intermediate People’s Court of Baicheng City accepted Huang’s appeal regarding the charge of picking quarrels and provoking trouble.
While there is significant support for Huang, villagers across the river said fee collection lacks standardization, and familiarity with the toll collectors sometimes exempted individuals from paying.
Furthermore, tolls for larger vehicles varied based on weight, without a fixed standard. Sun Lan, a villager, said that round trips for trucks carrying five to six tons incurred a fee of 40 yuan, while trucks carrying seven to eight tons were charged 50 yuan.
A store owner surnamed Nie in Anquan Village across the river said she had to pay 30 yuan if she drove a small truck with heavy loads across the river via the bridge.
A truck driver surnamed Zhu, who lives about 10 kilometers from Zhenlin Village, said that what Huang claimed about the fee is not true. "A heavy truck with 70 to 80 metric tons of pebbles had to pay at least 200 yuan" Zhu said when his business was good, he crossed the bridge more than 20 times a month. That would amount to 7,000 yuan for bridge tolls that winter alone.
Previously, Huang posted a video online claiming that before the bridge was constructed, 22 locals had drowned, and after the bridge’s removal, ten-plus villagers had suffered the same fate. However, local police stated that there were no records of such incidents in the Taofang Town segment of Taoer River from 2007 to the present.
To address the transportation issue faced by villagers, the local government has planned the construction of a temporary bridge.
The Taonan City Transportation Bureau stated that the planning process is in the pipeline, and the decision to build a crossing depends on multiple factors, including the bridge’s significance within the entire transportation network of Taonan, the local financial conditions, and the river’s seasonal conditions.
Huang protested his innocence and hopes for a reconsideration of his case to restore his previous occupation.
However, some disputes remain unsolved, and the incident continues to draw societal attention.