Forced evictions a threat to Chinese stability, says Amnesty


THE SIGNIFICANT increase in the numbers forcibly evicted from their homes in China to make way for new property developments is a gross violation of human rights, Amnesty International said in a report yesterday.

“The problem of forced evictions represents the single most significant source of popular discontent in China and a serious threat to social and political stability,” Amnesty wrote in the report, called Standing Their Ground.

Land-grabs or forced evictions by unscrupulous local governments in league with developers are often cited as one of the biggest threats to political stability in China.

There were nearly 180,000 “mass incidents” in 2010, including petitions, demonstrations and strikes – peaceful and violent – in China. In many cases they were linked to anger over corruption and other abuses of power such as illegal land seizures.

In February, premier Wen Jiabao alluded to the problem in a speech when he said: “What is the widespread problem right now? It’s the arbitrary seizure of peasants’ land, and the peasants have complaints, so much so that it’s triggering mass incidents.”

Despite international scrutiny and censure of such abuses during preparations for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the pace of forced evictions has only accelerated over the past three years, with millions of people across the country forced from their residences, Amnesty said in the report.

The human rights group has called for an immediate end to forced evictions and for the authorities to ensure no one is left homeless as a result of being evicted. It also urges independent adjudication of complaints, the punishment of non-state actors involved in violating residents’ rights and for the development of concrete measures to guarantee security of tenure.

The report focuses on the stand-off between villagers and authorities over land-grabs in Wukan in wealthy Guangdong province last December, and points out there has still been no investigation into the death in custody of one of the organisers, Xue Yinbo. “These evictions are often marked by violence, committed both by state and private actors in pursuit of economic gain,” it said.

Individuals and communities trying to prevent the evictions have been beaten, harassed and even killed. More than 40 people have set themselves alight in protest at evictions, many of whom died as a result. Of the 40 forced evictions profiled in the report, nine culminated in the death of people resisting eviction.

Between 1991 and 2003 more than half a million families in Beijing alone were evicted from their homes. Another 1.5 million people were displaced in run-up to the Beijing Olympics.