Three Gorges Probe

Migrant leaders languish in jail, one year on

Kelly Haggart

March 12, 2002

Four men detained for attempting to petition authorities in Beijing about corruption in the Three Gorges resettlement operation remain in prison, one year after their arrest.

Early reports said they had been ill-treated in custody and held incommunicado. Details of their current situation are unknown.

He Kechang, Jiang Qingshan and Ran Congxin were arrested in Beijing on March 12 last year. Police seized Wen Dingchun a few days earlier in Gaoyang, a town in the heart of the Three Gorges reservoir area about 225 km from the dam.

In the most recent Chinese media report on the case, an official newspaper revealed in November that Mr. He has been sentenced to three years in prison and the three other petitioners have received two-year terms.

They were convicted of “disturbing public order,” in the first case related to “disrupting Three Gorges resettlement work,” the Legal Daily (Fazhi Ribao) reported. [Migrant leaders sentenced for resettlement appeals]

The men, in their 50s and 60s, had been chosen by residents of Gaoyang to bring the misuse of resettlement funds to the attention of top Chinese leaders. The town is in Yunyang, one of the counties most affected by the dam. More than 120,000 Yunyang residents are being forced to move, including 13,000 people from Gaoyang.

The migrants’ representatives tried to present evidence to Beijing authorities that state funds earmarked for compensation payments in Yunyang had been systematically embezzled by corrupt local officials.

In an interview more than a month after the arrests, Qi Lin, director of the government’s Three Gorges Resettlement Bureau, was quoted as saying no one had been detained for resisting resettlement or filing complaints. “That’s ridiculous,” he said. “No government at any level would do something so stupid.” [China dams up dissent of Three Gorges project]

Officially, 1.2 million people are to be resettled because of the dam, though critics of the project predict the final figure will be closer to two million.

“This is the largest forced resettlement going on in the world today,” said Patricia Adams, executive director of Probe International. “These four migrant representatives organized themselves in a democratic fashion to collect evidence of corruption and submit it in good faith to the proper authorities, and they landed in jail. They ought to be released.

“A respected Chinese academic is predicting half a century of social chaos as a result of the resettlement operation,” Ms. Adams added. “What we’ve found from our work on other big dams is that people don’t forget what they’ve lost — decades later they will still be demanding compensation. This issue won’t go away and is certain to be extremely destabilizing for China.”

Related stories:

March 21, 2001: Three Gorges petitioners ‘held by police’, by Jasper Becker, South China Morning Post

March 23, 2001: Three Gorges dam petitioners abducted, by Wang Yusheng, Three Gorges Probe

March 27, 2001: Dam protester stabbed, robbed and arrested, by Jasper Becker, South China Morning Post

March 29, 2001: Arrests, intimidation confirm human rights abuses at Three Gorges dam, by Doris Shen, International Rivers Network Press Advisory

April 19, 2001: Imminent trial of Three Gorges dam protesters, Human Rights Watch and Probe International Press Release

April 20, 2001: Three Gorges migrants protest detentions, unfair treatment, Three Gorges Probe

April 20, 2001: Farmers to face trial after China dam project corruption exposed, Agence France-Presse

April 20, 2001: Three Gorges corruption protesters to go on trial, Associated Press

April 23, 2001: Amnesty International issues appeal for Three Gorges dam protesters, Amnesty International Urgent Action

May 6, 2001: China dams up dissent of Three Gorges project, by Julie Chao, Cox News Service

June 30, 2001: Corruption impacts China’s Three Gorges resettlement, by Leta Hong Fincher, VOA News

July 12, 2001: Sold down the river, by Calum Macleod, South China Morning Post

July 19, 2001: Probe International reports spur Chinese media to question authorities, Three Gorges Probe

Nov. 5, 2001: Behind the dark curtains: Battle lines drawn as peasants name names and officials cover up, by Patricia Adams, Three Gorges Probe

Nov. 5, 2001: Behind the dark curtains: Exclusive report on Three Gorges resettlement, by our correspondent, Three Gorges Probe

Nov. 23, 2001: Migrant leaders sentenced for resettlement appeals, by Kelly Haggart, Three Gorges Probe

Dec. 6, 2001: Three Gorges resettlement: push comes to shove, by Kelly Haggart, Three Gorges Probe

Jan. 17, 2002: Migrants not above the law, newspaper warns, by Kelly Haggart, Three Gorges Probe

Feb. 13, 2002: Three Gorges resettlement: quick, coercive, corrupt, by Kelly Haggart, Three Gorges Probe

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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