New Round of Forced Evictions

Evictees in Beijing accuse local officials of taking over land for speculative purposes.

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china-evictions-beijing-305.jpg Residents scuffle with police over a land dispute in Beijing, May 31, 2010.

Authorities in the Chinese capital on Thursday dragged local residents forcibly from their homes in the east of the city before removing their belongings and razing their houses in an apparent bid to make way for a commercial project, witnesses said.

A vehicle with no license plates, together with a minibus carrying demolition workers, arrived at Guojiacun and Xiaohongmen villages in the eastern district of Chaoyang at around noon on Thursday, local residents said.

"There were about one or two hundred people," said local resident Wu Lihong.

"They sealed up the [holdouts] in their homes and wouldn't let them out, then they dragged them from their houses. It was horrible, really it was," he added.

"Now, the looting of ordinary people's property by the police, urban management, criminal gangs, local government officials, and the village Party committee has begun," Wu said.

A handful of rights activists tried to stop the demolition gang from moving in, but were outnumbered, witnesses said.

"There were police and urban management personnel there, and a lot of people whose identities weren't clear," said activist Zhan Jiang from the scene.

"First, they dragged away the [holdouts], then they had a removals company come and take all their belongings out of their homes," he said.

"When that was done, they demolished their houses. There were a lot of workers with pickaxes and hatchets, as well as bulldozers and mechanical diggers," Zhan added.

No plans

Guojiacun villagers have complained that local authorities have so far failed to provide any plans for the land it has seized in the villagers, ostensibly for a commercial development project.

But their attempts to complain via the Chaoyang District Court had been refused six times, Wu said.

Amid skyrocketing property prices in China, main evictees have accused local officials of taking over land in order to speculate on the booming market.

"They have said they're using the land for a commercial development," Wu said.

"They have provided us with accommodation that is miles away from anywhere."

He said that any villager who refused to sign the relocation agreement with the authorities could take compensation at a rate of 6,000 yuan (U.S. $900) per square meter.

"But the lowest price for such a development on the current market would be 30,000 yuan (U.S. $4,500) per square meter," Wu said.

Calls to the local committee of the ruling Communist Party were answered by fax machine on Thursday. Calls to the local government offices went unanswered during office hours.

"Frightened off"

Wu said most families in the two villages had left of their own accord after witnessing the forced evictions of other families.

"Most have been frightened off like that," he said. "All the houses will have been demolished by Jan. 16."

Fellow resident Han Qifang said the land development deal had been cooked up by local officials in cahoots with commercial developers.

"The officials, the developers, the courts, and even criminal gangs are all in this together," she said.

"Ordinary people have no way to exist in the middle of those four forces."

Local resident Chen Huan said he was beaten by local police while filming a forced eviction in the area on June 23, and was held under administrative detention for five days after he reported the assault to the police.

"No one cares about our problems now," said a third resident, surnamed Ding.

"We have no guarantee for our property or our livelihoods," she said.

"They are forcibly demolishing our houses ... Our family's land has all gone. It's been sold," Ding said, adding that many villagers who protested had also become targets for harassment and intimidation.

"There are shady people in unmarked vehicles following us round the clock," she said.

China already sees thousands of "mass incidents" across the country every year, according to official statistics, many of which are protests or sit-ins linked to forced evictions, allegations of corruption, and disputes over rural land.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Lin Jing for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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