Amnesty: Violent Forced Evictions Increasing in China

Posted October 11th, 2012 at 1:30 am (UTC-5)
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Amnesty International says cases of violent forced evictions have risen dramatically in the last two years in China, as local authorities seek to pay off debts by seizing land and selling it to property developers.

A report published Thursday said growing numbers of Chinese have been forced from their homes in both rural and urban areas, resulting in deaths, beatings, harassment and imprisonment of residents.

Forced evictions have long been unpopular in China, where private citizens are not allowed to own land. But the report says they have now become “the single most significant source of popular discontent” and threaten social and political stability.

Amnesty is urging the government to immediately halt all forced evictions.

The government has acknowledged that the evictions are a problem, passing a law last year outlawing the use of violence during evictions and requiring the state to compensate homeowners fairly.

But Amnesty says the law does not cover rural areas, where forced evictions are widespread. It also said the law applies only to homeowners and not to tenants.

The group says evictions have increased over the past three years following a construction boom triggered by a massive government stimulus program after the beginning of the global financial crisis.

Loosened credit meant that many local governments borrowed huge sums from state banks to finance the projects. Amnesty says those governments now rely on land sales to cover the payments.

Of the 40 forced evictions that Amnesty examined, nine resulted in deaths of people protesting or resisting eviction. Others who resist are sent to prison and labor camps.

In one case, a 70-year old woman was buried alive by excavators in the city of Wuhan. In Wenchang city, the report said police even went as far as taking custody of a 20-month old baby and refusing to return him to his mother until she signed eviction papers.

Despite the violence, Amnesty says the Chinese Communist Party is ignoring those who carry out violent forced evictions. It says the party continues to promote officials who deliver economic growth, regardless of how it is achieved.

But there is growing evidence that despairing Chinese residents have had enough of the evictions. The report says at least 41 people between 2009 and 2011 took the drastic step of setting themselves to protest the evictions.