Three Gorges Probe

Special report: Resettlement problems at Three Gorges dam continue unchecked

International Rivers Network

April 7, 1999

10,000 villagers petition central government for help

Problems associated with the Three Gorges Dam resettlement programme have become so severe that relocatees have been officially petitioning the Central government to address them. Documents obtained by International Rivers Network reveal not only rampant corruption, extortion, falsification of data and inadequate compensation levels, but also the unwillingness of project managers in the Central government to address the situation is paving the way for serious conflict.

Documents include three petition letters filed by approximately two thirds of the 15,329 relocatees from Gaoyang township in Yunyang county between November 1997 and August 1998. Key issues raised include:

Insufficient funds budgeted by the central government for the resettlement programme.

Withholding of information from relocatees regarding what they were actually entitled to.

Inflation (falsification) of figures for the total amount of land for which compensation must be awarded, and inflation of figures for the actual assessed value of said land so as to extract more funds out of the Central government.

Extorting exorbitant and illegal fees from relocatees.

Accepting bribes from people outside the inundation area so that they could be registered as a relocatee, and therefore entitled to receive compensation.

Failure of a major land reclamation project due to corruption by officials.

In pleading for the Central government to intervene, petitioners ask, “In the future, when desperate relocatees rush to government compounds begging the government for food, what then?” They go on further to say, “Once conflict breaks out it will be too late for the Central government to send down officials to handle the matter.”

These documents paint a much different picture than the rosy assessment of resettlement described in the China Daily on February 12, 1999. The story begins, “A massive resettlement program involving more than 1 million residents of the Three Gorges Reservoir region in China is progressing smoothly, according to Guo Shuyan, Deputy Director of the Three Gorges Project Construction Commission of the State Council.”

“Not surprisingly, it is quite clear that there are two very different versions of what is going on with the Three Gorges Project, one, what the government wants people to believe, and the other, the real tragedy that is playing itself out all along the river. We hope that Zhu Rongji will soon hear their call and launch a full investigation into what is actually happening, including a thorough independent analysis of whether such a massive resettlement is indeed possible in the Three Gorges area, and at what cost,” said Owen Lammers, Vice President of IRN.

Summary of Petitions Filed by Resettlers from Gaoyang Township

International Rivers Network (IRN) has learned of a wave of rural protests over insufficient compensation and rampant corruption among officials in charge of the population resettlement program for the Three Gorges Dam project. What follows is a chronology and summary of three petition letters, filed by representatives of more than 10,000 angry rural relocatees in Gaoyang township in Yunyang county. The petitions have all been sent to the Central government in Beijing.

First Petition

November 20, 1997, approximately 10,000 of the 15,329 relocatees from Gaoyang township submitted, through representatives they had selected, a petition to the central government asserting that they were not receiving their fair share of compensation. Petitioners felt they should receive approximately 20,000 yuan each, as this reflected the total amount budgeted by the central government for the township deviled by the number of relocatees. The local government was allotting them only 10,800 yuan, or about half the per capita allotment. The petitioners wanted the full amount.

However, the local government is technically within its right to withhold a portion of the total resettlement budget to pay for roads and other resettlement related infrastructure. They were informed of this when representatives of the Central government came out to investigate their claim in February 1998.

The petitioners realized their mistake, and realized that the problem actually rested with the Central government. The Central government did not sufficiently budget resources to ensure people were adequately compensated and that sufficient infrastructure was constructed. They also recognized that this was a case they could not win, as it was felt to be futile to challenge the Central government. So the matter was effectively dropped by the petitioners.

Second Petition

However, the matter of the first petition was not dropped by the local resettlement officials. They retaliated and began intimidating and harassing the petitioners for what they had done. This infuriated the petitioners. The petitioners decided to investigate in more detail what these local officials were up to. This caused a second petition to be filed on May 9, 1998 with the Central government. This petition demanded a full investigation of the implementation of the resettlement program in Gaoyang township. The petition, submitted by representatives of the same group of 10,000 relocatees, cited numerous examples of corruption including:

1. Withholding of information from relocatees regarding what they were actually entitled.

2. Inflation (falsification) of figures for the total amount of land for which compensation must be awarded, and inflation of figures for the actual assessed value of said land so as to extract more funds out of the Central government.

3. Extorting exorbitant and illegal fees from resettlers.

4. Accepting bribes from people outside the inundation area so that they could be registered as a relocatee, and therefore entitled to compensation.

5. Failure of a major land reclamation project due to official corruption.

The petitioners received no reply from the Central government. Supplementary materials pertaining to this petition were filed on June 16, 1998 and July 22, 1998. This information provided additional evidence to back-up the claims made in the May 9 petition. Still, no response was heard.

Third Petition

On August 9, 1998, a third petition was filed by the same group of relocatees. This petition went into more extensive detail on some of the same issues raised in the second petition. Again, the key themes were falsifying reports to the Central government concerning land value and amount of land for which compensation was paid, forcing relocatees to purchase housing permits for their new location, low quality of and high prices charged for replacement land, and allowing unaffected people to be registered as relocatees. Since the third petition was filed, there has been a reshuffling of the Party and government leaders in Gaoyang. However, many of the problems, such as the issues of compensation and the failure of the land reclamation project, remain unsolved.

The problems in Gaoyang are only a small part of a worsening plight faced by the relocatees in the Three Gorges area. In January 1999, it was reported that 105 officials associated with the Three Gorges project were arrested, principally on charges of corruption. At least seven of these officials were associated with resettlement underway in Gaoyang township. These arrested Gaoyang officials, however, were not brought to justice as a direct result of the issues raised by the relocatees. They were charged for extorting kickbacks from contractors building urban resettlement housing. Investigations of these local officials were only started when building inspectors were about to charge contractors for substandard construction quality. The contractors then revealed that they could not put sufficient money into the structures as they had been forced to give so much back to these resettlement officials.

Three Gorges Probe welcomes submissions. However, it is not a forum for political debate. Rather, Three Gorges Probe is dedicated to covering the scientific, technical, economic, social, and environmental ramifications of completing the Three Gorges Project, as well as the alternatives to the dam.

Publisher: Patricia Adams Executive Editor: Mu Lan ISSN 1481-0913

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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