Shandong police hold two on public order charges over homeowners' committee election

Two homeowners are detained for 'gathering a crowd to disrupt public order' despite such elections being legal.
By Gu Ting for RFA Mandarin
2022.10.04
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Shandong police hold two on public order charges over homeowners' committee election
Photo: RFA

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have detained two people after local homeowners held an election to choose members of a residents' committee.

Residents of a residential compound in Liuqingjie, in the Lanshan district of Shandong's Linyi city, held an election for the committee on Sept. 16, which the local government said was unauthorized.

Police detained two people, named as Fu ***li and Du ***chao, holding them in criminal detention on suspicion of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order," after a large crowd gathered on the day of the election, local residents told RFA.

"The homeowners' committee is truly a non-government body," Zhang Jiaju told RFA. "There are also online communities which people set up by each contributing a sum of money."

"It levies small fees, including parking fees and estate management fees for the community," he said. "I don't understand what crime they are supposed to be [detained for]. A residential community, with its homeowners' committee, is a private place, according to the Property Law [of the People's Republic of China]."

Senior media worker Lei Ge agreed that the formation of homeowners' committees was legitimate under current Chinese law.

"Electing a homeowners' committee is a right of homeowners that is clearly the Civil Code and property management regulations," Lei said. "It doesn't require approval from any government department, not even sub-district offices."

"The responsibility of the relevant government departments is only to guide and assist," he said. "It's a complete abuse of law enforcement powers for the Linyi police department to go arbitrarily arresting  homeowners holding elections to homeowners' committees in residential communities."

RFA checked Article 277 of China's Civil Code, which stipulates that "the relevant departments of the local people's government and neighborhood committees shall provide guidance and assistance in the setting up of homeowners' assemblies and the election of the homeowners' committee."

'Unrestricted government power '

Lei said the issue partly stems from a lack of understanding of the law on the part of the Linyi police.

"Government personnel and relevant departments are not accustomed to abiding by the law and believe that they hold all of the power," he said. "They will always tend to respond violently to anything that isn't entirely in line with their thinking."

"Unrestricted government power is the root cause of government personnel breaking the law," Lei said.

The Beijing Youth Daily reported that on May 30 that the city government in Hefei, provincial capital of the eastern province of Anhui, had issued a new draft of residential community property management regulations for comment that would require local governments and sub-district offices to "regularly evaluate the performance of homeowners' committees."

"The director of the homeowners' committee shall report to the community [ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)] party committee annually," the draft rules state, suggesting that local governments may be planning to roll out new rules placing the activities of private homeowners under CCP control.

The new draft regulations had yet to be adopted, either in Hefei city or nationwide, at the time of writing.

While Chinese law allows in theory for many different kinds of election, local officials and CCP committees often clamp down on any election-related activity that isn't directly controlled by them.

In October 2021, more than a dozen rights activists who had planned to run as candidates in elections for district-level People's Congresses withdrew their candidacy after being targeted by an intimidation campaign, despite existing rules allowing independents to run.

Fourteen activists, many of whom campaigned on behalf of family members detained in a nationwide operation targeting human rights lawyers that began on July 9, 2015, were placed under close police surveillance after announcing their plan publicly.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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