Uyghur Octogenarian Pushed Off Land Despite Winning Court Battle

uyghur-urumqi-demolition-2013.jpg Residents look on as Uyghur homes in the Yamalik area of Xinjiang's capital Urumqi are demolished in mid-2013.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A Uygur octogenarian in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region has lost his family’s home to a Chinese developer years after winning a court battle that led to the return of his property from another company.

Abdurehim Qari, 82, has been living in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi since his home in Atush city was demolished in August last year by a crew accompanied by police and local officials who beat him and several others for protesting the action.

His forced eviction from the 3.4 mu (0.56 acre) plot was the climax of a nearly decade-long fight Qari waged against companies from eastern China he claims have been using political connections to take over his property as the land grew increasingly valuable.
A map of Atush in Xinjiang. The battle began in 2005 when authorities started pressuring him to sell his land to a Chinese company, eventually forcing him to sign a contract conceding the land. Three years later, the Xinjiang High People’s Court ordered Zhongkun Company to return the plot to him.

But the ruling was not enough to prevent last year’s takeover of the land by the second company, a Beijing-based developer that Qari claims has links to Xinjiang's former ruling Chinese Communist Party chief Wang Lequan.  

Qari, who refused compensation payments from both companies, said that despite the court decision his nine years of attempts to appeal to authorities over the case had gotten his family nowhere.

“Where is justice, where is the law? I really don’t know,” he told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“My family’s situation is much worse since we lost our home,” he said.

Qari’s daughter Dilmire Abdurehim said the family’s property had been worth much more than any compensation they had been offered.

“Our houses, stores, yard, garden, fruit trees, and land in the city center should be worth several million yuan at the current market rate,” she said.

“We have been living under the shadow of injustice for the past nine years.”

Pressured into contract

Back in 2005, Zhongkun Company had “cooperated with the Atush local government in secret and pressured me to sell my land,” Qari said.  

Under the contract signed the next year, Zhongkun had agreed to provide his family with two apartments in the city’s outskirts, arrange a long-term job for one of his children, and pay 120,000 yuan (U.S. $19,900) in compensation.

But when no apartments and no job materialized, Qari refused to accept the payment and took the case to the provincial court, he said.

Following the court decision, the family retook control of the land, adding on more houses and two stores that they rented out.  

Forced eviction

Then in 2013, the Beijing-based company “cooperated with the Atush local government to restart the quarrel,” Qari said.

Qari said he believes the company is linked to Wang Lequan, a powerful regional leader now serving as deputy chair of the party’s Political and Legislative Affairs Committee.

“I have heard that the company belongs to Wang Lequan’s circle,” he said.

The company offered Qari 600,000 yuan (U.S. $99,000) for their property, but after Qari refused, local authorities ordered the family to move out by Aug. 20, Qari said.

That day, hundreds of police along with Atush officials and officials came with bulldozers to demolish their house along with two other Uyghur families’ homes nearby, according to Qari.

Several men including Qari were beaten as residents opposed the move, he said, adding that others were detained.

“Because of my old age, they did not detain me, but one of the Han Chinese police beat me very severely,” Qari said.

Since the forced eviction, Qari’s family has been living in rented homes in Urumqi.

Qari’s children said their father had wanted to travel to Beijing to petition higher authorities for redress over the case, but they had stopped him because they were worried about him being there during the winter in his old age.

“My father has decided never to give up this case. He has the courage to continue this struggle until his last breath,” his son Ablet Abdurehim said.

Reported and translated by Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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