Riot Police Beat, Detain Eviction Protesters in China's Sichuan

Protesters say new housing provided as part of a relocation package agreed upon after their evictions is cracking and falling apart.

A Chinese woman reacts after failing to protect her home from demolition in Guangzhou, southern China's Guangdong province, March 21, 2012.

Angry evictees in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have been protesting over allegations that their substitute accommodations were built with substandard "tofu" concrete, refusing to move in and clashing with police sent to disperse them.

More than  500 evicted residents of Huacheng Yili, Huilong and Shizi residential districts in Sichuan's provincial capital, Chengdu, gathered outside property developer's offices, prompting the government to send in more than 100 riot police and urban management officials, sparking violent clashes, eyewitnesses told RFA.

"A lot of riot police came early in the morning, and chengguan, people like that ... and confiscated the protesters' banners that they hadn't even put up yet," a protester surnamed Wang told RFA.

"Then the clashes started, because they started beating up the protesters, beating them, locking them up, dragging them away," she said. "They detained more than a dozen people."

"There were elderly people in their eighties and nineties among the protesters, but they beat them up right there anyway," Wang said.

Video footage shot by protesters showed chaotic scenes, with several police vehicles parked near a dense crowd of people, and police drawing a security cordon in one area and preventing anyone from approaching.

Several people, including senior citizens, lay on the ground, apparently injured, before being dragged away.

Wang said the evictees had been promised new apartments within three or four years of being evicted, but that they have now waited seven years.

"The apartments are ready now, but the quality isn't good enough, so we are demanding an explanation," she said. "There are cracks which can't be filled, while some apartments don't even have a main living room."

A protester surnamed Zhou said some 7,000 people are affected by the shoddily constructed substitute apartments.

"There were more than 500 of us here, but there are more than 7,000 people who are making these demands of the government," he said. "The local leaders came to the scene in the morning, but they took a very hardline, and said they hadn't broken the law."

Falling apart

Zhou confirmed that some of the apartments lack a living room or anywhere to place a dining table.

"The construction quality is such that there is subsidence in places, and the cement is already starting to fall off from higher up the buildings," he said.

An employee who answered the phone at the Chenghua district government offices in Chengdu said the government has sent officials to mediate the dispute.

"We know there was some kind of a gathering [on Thursday], and we have sent people from the relevant departments to the scene, to mediate," the employee said.

"I'm afraid we can't answer your questions from here. The matter is being handled by the relevant departments," he said.

Zhou said the government had cut corners and acted illegally at a number of points in the eviction and relocation process.

"The government has already admitted they acted illegally with regard to the tenancy contracts, and then there's the question of social insurance because some people over 60 aren't receiving any kind of social subsistence payments at all," he said.

"What's more the prices of the emergency housing didn't adhere to national government guidelines ... in two of the residential compounds in Chenghua district," he said.

The clashes come amid growing public anger over the use of violent forced evictions, often with no warning or due process, by local governments to reclaim land for lucrative redevelopment or speculation.

Land acquisition for development, often resulting in profitable property deals for local officials, sparks thousands of protests by local communities across China every year, many of which escalate into clashes with police.

But the authorities are quick to suppress news and social reports of such clashes, and anyone who posts details of such "mass incidents" risks detention for spreading rumors.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.