Developing at the Expense of Residents : Forced Evictions in Chongqing

Publication of a Fact-finding Mission

On the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the repression of the student movement of Tian an men, FIDH publishes a report on forced evictions in China.

Following a mission of investigation over several months in Chongqing, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) publishes a report documenting widespread violations of human rights caused by house demolitions and forced evictions. While the Chongqing municipality celebrates 10 years of autonomy, this report highlights the price paid by inhabitants, in particular the poorest who do not benefit from the fast development changing the face of the city.

Modernising cities has been on the top of the Chinese government’s agenda since the 1990s. Urban modernisation may be necessary for insalubrious neighbourhoods and obsolete public infrastructures. It is a consequence of the economic boom, but also a way to promote China’s image abroad, in particular in view of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2010 Shanghai Universal Exhibition. However, the so-called modernisation of cities is often an excuse for profit-oriented or even speculative projects that result in house demolitions and forced evictions of citizens. No reliable statistics exist on this sensitive issue, even though it results in major social transformations.

Very few citizens were informed or consulted about the projects involving their eviction in a timely manner and most of them received no adequate compensation either in terms of payment or new housing. Intimidation, harassment and violence are frequently used to proceed with such evictions. Moreover, as complaints are dealt with through administrative arbitration managed by local authorities, evictees have only one choice left: resistance. « Collective resistance includes sit-ins, petitions and banners displayed on buildings about to be demolished. Yet, public protest movements are violently repressed », said Ruben Dao, FIDH delegate.

The central government closes its eyes to such violations by local authorities, in contravention of China’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The inaction of the central government contributes to deepen inequalities and to marginalize further those suffering from harsh living conditions. Forced evictions result in increased vulnerability to violations of other human rights, such as the right to food, water, health and education.

« In theory, the Chinese legal framework concerning demolitions and forced evictions provides guarantees to the evictees. However, the administrative reforms led by the government in the 1980s and the booming real estate market encouraged the local governments to ignore public interest and pursue lucrative projects, in collusion with real estate companies. Local authorities do not abide by the guarantees provided to evictees by the national regulations », Ruben Dao added.

The law on property rights, which was adopted by The National People’s Congress in March 2007 and will come into effect in October, reinforces legal security and regulates property rights . Unfortunately, this law includes no significant step on matters of forced evictions, as it does not establish additional protection for victims, and does not define the notion of « public interest », which appears to be the main justification for a great number of evictions.

The report includes recommendations to the Chinese government, to the United Nations, to the European Union, to international financial institutions, and to companies investing in China in order to put an end to arbitrary forced evictions and the related human rights violations.

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