Eviction Disputes Grow in Beijing

Local officials side with developers in lucrative land grabs.

2010.09.14
Tianzhu Village 305.jpg The Tianzhu village intersection, shown in an undated photo.
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HONG KONG—Residents of rural counties surrounding the Chinese capital say they face further forced evictions by local officials and hired security personnel, as they refuse to accept compensation terms dictated by the government.

Households in Tianzhu village near Beijing's Capital Airport, for example, have rejected a deal offered by local government, saying the money offered won't be enough to buy an equivalent property and that temporary accommodation is unavailable.

"They haven't been to measure, but have just estimated the size of our property from outside," a resident surnamed Wang said, adding that more than 600 households have protested the government's strong-arm tactics by refusing to have their homes measured.

"Of those, around 70 had their homes estimated instead," Wang said. "Everyone is very frightened ... we are under a lot of psychological pressure."

"This is supposed to be [our] government, but they are terrorizing us. About 130 people showed up to estimate one family's home, and when the head of the household demanded to see official identification and paperwork, they called a police car that took him down to the eviction office," Wang added.

Protests, clashes common

Land acquisition for development, often resulting in lucrative property deals for local officials, sparks thousands of protests by farming communities every month, many of which escalate into clashes with police.

Detentions, beatings, and further harassment of those who dare to complain are common.

A report in the state-run Beijing Daily News said local officials had held a meeting in Shunyi county, a part of the Beijing metropolitan area, and had identified 50 areas for redevelopment, including the whole of Tianzhu village, with demolition to start at the end of September.

All 2,585 households in the village would have their homes demolished by the end of October, the paper said, adding that temporary replacement housing wouldn't be available until the following October, and then only in a different location.

Villagers responded last month by writing an open letter to the government, calling for the replacement housing to be located in their original village, but have so far received no response.

The letter was signed by 3,377 villagers, local residents said.

"A lot of people signed, because we want to be resettled in Tianzhu, not in some other place," Wang said. "Then they just started measuring up the land and there was no more explanation of resettlement or compensation arrangements."

Residents said land in Tianzhu is currently being sold for 30,000 yuan (U.S. $4,446) per square meter at auction, but that the government plans to compensate them according to 2006 compensation rates, at just 1,755 yuan (U.S. $260) per square meter.

They also said a planned transition subsidy of 350 yuan a month isn't nearly enough to rent an apartment privately.

Other evictions

Elsewhere in the Beijing metropolitan area, more than 300 families in Chengzhong village near Huairo said they also face eviction, although more than 100 households have so far refused to sign the compensation deal being offered for an "improvement project" in the area.

"None of us wants to move out," said a Chengzhong resident identified as A Liang. "But we are under a huge amount of pressure."

"It's pretty serious—just like war. They are terrorizing us. There are some older people who can't take it and have already gone into hospital," he said.

"I heard today that around 200 families have signed their agreement because there is no other way out for them."

He said residents have been told that they will be pulled from their houses, which would then be bulldozed in front of them, if they don't sign the government's compensation deal.

"These are sudden, forced evictions, which the state council has already forbidden, but it just keeps getting worse," Liang said.

China's Ministry of Land and Resources has called on local officials to make transparent the compensation of families evicted from their land to make way for property developments, a phenomenon that has led to tens of thousands of disputes and clashes every year.

But experts say the regulations governing compensation in land acquisitions are unlikely to help rural evictees unless local governments start abiding by the law.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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