Rule of Law

China: 2005 Housing Rights Violator

Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions
May 24, 2002

‘China has been named one of three Housing Rights Violators in 2005, for its appalling record of government-sanctioned forced evictions and its flagrant disregard for the human right to adequate housing.’

From the website of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.

China has been named one of three Housing Rights Violators in 2005, for its appalling record of government-sanctioned forced evictions and its flagrant disregard for the human right to adequate housing.

Each year, the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) awards its Housing Rights Violator Awards to three governments guilty of particularly serious and pervasive housing rights violations in the preceding year. COHRE has issued its Violator Awards since 2002. This year, China shares the Violator Awards with Zimbabwe and the State Government of Maharashtra, India.

Scott Leckie, COHRE’s Executive Director, said, “More than 40 million Chinese farmers lost their land and livelihoods in the past 20 years due to rapid industrialisation and urbanisation. At least 1.25 million households were demolished and nearly 3.7 million people evicted and relocated throughout China in the past decade, causing widespread suffering to thousands of communities across the country. The lack of legal remedies to resist these evictions, the inadequate compensation and resettlement provided to those evicted, the use of extreme force in carrying out evictions, and police brutality towards those protesting against land grabs and forced evictions are testimony to the Chinese Government’s ruthless contempt for housing rights. COHRE is particularly concerned about the forced evictions of at least 400,000 people carried out in Beijing in connection with the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympic Games Ð a figure to which the Beijing Municipal State Land Administration itself admits. Removing people from their homes against their will is not only a human rights violation, but contrary to the ‘Olympic Spirit’ as well”

The Chinese Government has admitted that “half the current demand for real estate in China is being met by local government-backed demolitions and evictions.” Development processes in both rural and urban areas do not include consultation with those affected at any stage prior to compensation and resettlement plans being finalised by the authorities. Compensation and resettlement provided to evictees are often inadequate, especially for farmers who have lost their livelihoods.

Leckie added, “COHRE estimates that nearly 640,500 Tibetans have been forcibly evicted since China’s invasion of Tibet in 1949. Shanghai takes the lead in urban evictions, demolishing 850,000 households from 1993 to 2003 and evicting 2.5 million people in the process. Another 60,000 residents are facing eviction and relocation away from the urban centre in the near future. Beijing evicted and relocated 402,000 households since 1991.”

The North-South Water Division Project, which involves more than 100 counties across seven provinces and municipalities, threatens to evict and relocate between 300,000 to 400,000 people over the next 40 to 50 years. The level of displacement caused by this project is second only to the Three Gorges Dam project.

Although the Chinese Government has condemned evictions in the country, they continue unabated. Recent reports from Guangzhou, Beijing and other parts of China indicate that discrimination, violence, intimidation and suicides connected to forced evictions and relocations are continuing.

Leckie said, “COHRE’s research indicates there is a high risk that Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, which the Chinese Government is promoting as a tourist destination for the 2008 Olympics, will be ‘cleansed’ of its homeless people, beggars and street vendors, who are mainly Tibetans.”

According to reports, more than three million people were involved in 50,000 public protests in 2003, mostly stemming from illegal land grabs, forced evictions and relocations. China’s Security Minister, Zhou Yongkang, recently admitted that land disputes and economic inequality led to nearly 74,000 protests and riots in 2004.

CHINA: Housing Rights Fact Sheet

Mass housing rights violations have been common in China for well over half a century. Forced evictions, relocations and land grabs are as much a part of the landscape of modern China as the economic boom that is sweeping the country. Evictions in China are largely driven by politics, as in the case of Tibet, or by economic factors, as in the case of the Three Gorges Dam project, the West-East natural gas pipeline and development initiatives in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Fujian and other parts of China.

Development is the official reason given for almost all evictions in China over the past two decades. In China, this term includes so-called “urban upgrading”, “infrastructural and industrial development”, “environmental protection”, “reforestation”, “poverty alleviation”, “beautification”, and “hygiene” measures. The fever of economic development that has swept through China has been accompanied by widespread misery and suffering, as thousands of communities across the country have been evicted or face eviction in the near future.

The Chinese Government has admitted that “half the current demand for real estate in China is being met by local government-backed demolitions and evictions.” The Government has also admitted that 40 million farmers have lost their land and livelihood in the last 20 years, due to the rapid industrialisation and urbanisation which are fuelling China’s high economic growth. Development processes in both rural and urban areas do not include consultation with those affected at any stage prior to requisition, compensation and resettlement plans being finalised by Government authorities. Compensation and resettlement provided to those evicted from their homes are often inadequate, especially for farmers who have lost their livelihoods.

Since the 1990s the Three Gorges Dam Project has caused massive and continuing evictions in Chongqing and Hubei provinces. Other communities evicted or threatened with eviction since the 1990s include farmers and residents of Shishan, Qingkou and Lianjiang, all rural villages and towns in the southern province of Fujian; Sanchawan Village and Zhouzhi county in the western province of Shaanxi; Xiao Guwei Island in the southern province of Guangdong; Jiahe county in Hunan province; Shijiahe Village, near Zhengzhou, Henan province; and residents of both China’s capital city, Beijing and the eastern seaboard economic and financial powerhouse, Shanghai.

From available information, COHRE estimates that nearly 640,500 Buddhist monks, nuns, civilians and nomadic Tibetans have been forcibly evicted from over 6,200 monasteries, convents, other historical and religious buildings and homes since China’s invasion of Tibet in 1949. In addition, at least 1.25 million households have been demolished and 3,642,800 people evicted and relocated throughout China during the past decade. Shanghai takes the lead in urban evictions, demolishing 850,000 households from 1993 to 2003 and evicting 2.5 million people in the process. Another 60,000 residents are facing eviction and relocation away from the urban centre in the near future. Beijing in turn evicted and relocated 402,000 households since 1991. Forced evictions of at least 400,000 people have been carried out in Beijing in connection with the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympic Games Ð a figure to which the Beijing Municipal State Land Administration itself admits.

In 2003, 18,071 complaints were lodged with the Construction Ministry over allegedly illicit land transfers. Similar complaints were lodged by 18,620 individuals and 4000 groups in the first half of 2004. However, petitions are often ignored and court actions are generally ineffective. Police harassment and brutality are common when farmers and residents try to protect their homes and land by resisting evictions. Police surveillance and intimidation of those protesting forced evictions is widespread. According to reports, more than three million people were involved in 50,000 public protests in 2003, mostly stemming from illegal land grabs, forced evictions and relocations. China’s Security Minister, Zhou Yongkang, recently admitted that land disputes and economic inequality led to nearly 74,000 protests and riots across the country last year.

China has yet to enact a Housing Act. At present, individuals in China do not have the right to own land. Consequently, the right to housing in China is defined by the right to own private property other than land. In addition, there are few legal remedies for those seeking to prevent forced evictions and assert their housing rights. Even where land transfers are illegal, legal remedies are not provided for those affected.

Although the Chinese Government has condemned evictions in the country, they continue unabated. Recent reports from Guangzhou, Beijing and other parts of China indicate that discrimination, violence, intimidation and suicides connected to forced evictions and relocations are continuing. There is a high risk that Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, which the Chinese Government is promoting as a tourist destination to those who plan to visit the country for the 2008 Olympics, will be “cleansed” of its homeless people, beggars and street vendors, who are mainly Tibetans. The North-South Water Division Project, which involves more than 100 counties across seven provinces and municipalities, threatens to evict and relocate between 300,000 to 400,000 people over the next 40 to 50 years. The level of displacement caused by this project is second only to the Three Gorges Dam project.

CHINA: Facts at a glance

¥ At least 1.25 million households have been demolished and 3,642,800 people evicted and relocated throughout China since the 1990s.

¥ Shanghai takes the lead in urban evictions, demolishing 850,000 households and evicting 2.5 million people from 1993 to 2003. Another 60,000 residents are facing eviction and relocation away from the urban centre in the near future.

¥ Over 402,000 households have been evicted and relocated since 1991 in Beijing. COHRE estimates that more than 100,000 households (300,000 people) have been evicted due to Olympics-related construction since July 2001, when Beijing was awarded the 2008 summer Games.

¥ The Chinese Government has admitted that “half the current demand for real estate in China is being met by local government-backed demolitions and evictions.” The Government has also admitted that 40 million farmers have lost their land and livelihood in the last 20 years due to rapid industrialisation and urbanisation.

¥ Nearly 640,500 Tibetans have been forcibly evicted from over 6,200 monasteries, convents, other historical buildings and homes since China’s invasion in 1949.

¥ In 2003, 18,071 complaints were lodged with the Construction Ministry over allegedly illicit land transfers. Similar complaints were lodged by 18,620 individuals and 4000 groups in the first half of 2004.

¥ According to reports, more than three million people were involved in 50,000 public protests in 2003, mostly stemming from illegal land grabs, forced evictions and relocations. China’s Security Minister, Zhou Yongkang, recently admitted that land disputes and inequality led to nearly 74,000 protests and riots in 2004.

¥ Villagers of Sanchawan, 10 miles from Yulin, Shaanxi province, lost 1,670 acres of their land after local government officials evicted them with minimal compensation in 2002, and leased the land to developers. Yulin subsequently became a hub in the West-East natural gas pipeline project.

¥ Beijing’s 800 year old Jiaodoku neighbourhood was flattened in July 2003, destroying over 2,000 households, to make way for Olympics-related construction.

¥ More than 10,000 farmers were forced to relocate in October 2003, after their lands were seized in Xiao Guwei Island in Pearl River, to make way for Guangzhou University Town. In August 2004, a further 14,000 farmers were forced to leave their lands for the project. The villages of Nanting, Beiting, Suishi, Beigang, Guolang and Lianxi were destroyed to make way for the University Town.

¥ 7,000 farmers were evicted in July 2005 from Sanshangang village, in Guangzhou province.

Source: Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions

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