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[Li Chang] [Nurmemet Yasin]
Preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and
other venue cities have led to a massive increase in
the number of forced or arbitrary evictions.

On this page:
Overview

Over the past three decades, millions of people in China have been lifted out of poverty.[1] But China's economic achievements have also given rise to increasing inequality between and within urban populations and rural populations,[2] as well as a host of problems associated with land ownership and usage rights, such as land grabs and ongoing forced evictions. In recent years, in particular, preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and other venue cities have led to a massive increase in the number of forced or arbitrary evictions.

In 2001, during China's bid to host the Olympics, Liu Jingmin, vice-president of the Beijing bid committee, told the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that "by allowing Beijing to host the games you will help the development of human rights."[3] Since winning the bid, the Chinese authorities, central and local, have made numerous human rights-related promises, including open access for the media, "tight but friendly and peaceful, security measures," and a "Green" Olympics.[4] In the "Beijing Olympic Action Plan," promulgated in 2002, the Chinese government promised to "maximize the positive impacts of the Olympic Games on national economic development and accelerat[e] the modernization drive of the country."[5]

Despite these promises and the country's obligations as a party to international treaties,[6] a broad range of human rights abuses have been carried out in China under the banner of holding a "peaceful Olympics" (平安奥运), many of which have been documented by Human Rights in China. Among the abuses are violations of individuals' rights to housing. The housing rights advocacy group Center for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) estimates that 1.5 million people in Beijing were displaced between 2000 and 2008 as a result of venue and facilities construction, beautification projects, and infrastructure improvements.[7] These evictions have been undertaken in large part without adequate compensation or relocation, and disproportionately affect migrant workers.[8]
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China's Obligations: The Right to Housing
In this section:

International Legal Standards

China ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on March 27, 2001, which obligates the government to take positive steps towards realizing the rights enshrined in the Covenant, including the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to housing.[9]

In 2005 the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights reviewed China's implementation of the ICESCR. In its concluding comments, the Committee emphasized a number of ways in which the Chinese government has failed to implement the right to housing in China.

The hukou—household registration—system, under which individuals and families are tied to a particular place and divided into the urban or rural categories, is the key to understanding the inherent discrimination in access to housing and essential services in China's cities.[10] Although the Chinese government began to announce "reforms" of the hukou system in the mid-1990s, these reforms have not been systematically implemented and, in many cases, have raised complex new barriers to migrants' entry into cities. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concluded that the hukou system discriminates against migrants in China's cities.[11]

The Committee also commented specifically on the issue of evictions, including those in the lead-up to the Olympics:

The Committee is concerned with reports of forced evictions and insufficient measures to provide compensation or alternative housing to those who have been removed from their homes in the context of urban development projects as well as of rural development projects such as the Three Gorges Project. The Committee is concerned about the number of forced evictions and demolitions that have occurred in anticipation of the 2008 Olympic Games . . .[12]

— Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


Evictions themselves are not always unlawful. As long as governments ensure due process of law for evictees and provide adequate compensation, evictions can be undertaken for redevelopment and other projects. Arbitrary and forced evictions, or inadequate compensation, however, violate the right to housing. The Committee, which has the authority to interpret obligations under the Covenant, has said that forced evictions are incompatible with the requirements of the Covenant.[13] By displacing people for development projects arbitrarily and without adequate compensation, China is therefore circumventing its responsibilities under international law.

National Laws

A 2004 amendment to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国宪法) states: "the State respects and preserves human rights."[14] Although the Constitution does not provide for the right to housing specifically, it states that citizens' private property is inviolable,[15] and that the government will provide compensation for private property that is "expropriated or requisitioned."[16] Chinese laws and regulations also provide protections to housing rights in China. The new Property Law of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国物权法) spells out the general procedures for and limits of expropriation of land by the government, and also lays out the circumstances for compensation.[17] The Regulation on the Eviction of Urban Houses (城市房屋拆迁管理条例) provides more detail, including that an eviction must be approved by a local evictions administration department and notice must be given to evictees.[18] Moreover, compensation and resettlement must be discussed with the evictees.[19] Major cities have also adopted regulations specific to the particular urban setting.[20]

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Evicted in the Name of Development
In this section:

Despite protections by law, hundreds of thousands of individuals are displaced arbitrarily and without adequate compensation. Rural land grabs, corruption, major infrastructure development projects, and urban renewal and other projects leading to displacements—such as in the construction of the Three Gorges Dam and the Shanghai World Expo—were documented in China before its bid for the Olympic Games.[21] An estimated 1.25 million households have been demolished and 3.7 million people evicted throughout China over the past decade.[22]

Olympics

When Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympic Games in July 2001, the city began its transformation with huge infrastructural changes and the construction of architectural wonders. The massive changes were an opportunity to display the efficacy of China's governance, leadership, and modernization.[23] The Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games ("BOCOG") announced that 62 new roads and four bridges would be built around Olympic venues.[24] The venues in Beijing include 31 competition and 45 training sites and five other affiliated buildings. In addition, 42 new residential buildings in the athlete's village as well as 16 new apartment buildings in the media village were planned.[25]
Searching for Justice

The lack of an independent judiciary or other effective official avenues through which to seek redress has compelled housing rights activists, and individuals and communities displaced by Olympics and other projects to make their grievances public, thereby risking government reprisals similar to those experienced by other rights defenders. Housing activists and people displaced by redevelopment projects—especially big projects like the Olympics redevelopment which are intended to present a modern face of China to the international community—find little help in legal protections that are often unenforced. The cases of petitioner Shuang Shuying (双淑英), lawyer Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠), activist Yang Chunlin (杨春林), and displaced resident Fu Xiancai (付先財), are examples of the harassment faced by those seeking justice after being forcibly displaced.

Shuang Shuying (双淑英) and her family were forcibly evicted from their home soon after Beijing won the bid to host the Olympic Games to make way for development projects. Shuang and her family have petitioned for years for adequate compensation, which they have not received. After her son was detained for their petitioning activities, Shuang was detained while protesting his detention. Shuang is profiled in this month's Take Action campaign. To learn more about petitioning, see "About the Issue: The Olympics and the Right to Criticize".

Some people displaced by development projects turn to rights-defense lawyers, like Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠), an activist-lawyer from Shanghai. Zheng represented displaced families in numerous cases involving Shanghai's urban redevelopment projects and continued to assist them after his license was revoked in 2001.[43] In 2003, Zheng was assisting Shanghai residents in a case alleging that the now disgraced CPC Shanghai Party Secretary, Chen Liangyu (陈良宇), had colluded with a wealthy local property developer Zhou Zhengyi.[44] Chen was later sentenced to 18 years in prison on corruption charges. But Zheng, who helped expose Chen, was himself arrested in June 2003 on charges of "illegally obtaining state secrets,"[45] and was sentenced to three years imprisonment. Following his release from prison, Zheng has remained active on housing rights issues and continues to face harassment from local authorities.

Yang Chunlin (杨春林), an activist from Heilongjiang Province who had been an advocate for farmer's land rights, began an open-letter campaign entitled, "We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics,"[46] Yang reportedly collected over 10,000 signatures on his open-letter. He was detained by authorities on suspicion of "subversion of state power" and was sentenced to five years imprisonment on March 24, 2008.

Fu Xiancai (付先財) is a former resident of the Maoping Township in Hubei. Fu is one of dozens of villagers from Maoping who have been harassed, injured, or detained over the past 10 years for protesting the Three Gorges Dam resettlement. In 2006 and 2007, Fu was put under round-the-clock surveillance, and he and his family members were threatened and assaulted by mafia elements. On June 8, 2006, Fu was struck from behind by an unknown assailant after local police questioned him about an interview he did on the German television station Das Erste in May. Paralyzed from the shoulders down by the blow, Fu was sent to Yichang No. 1 People's Hospital, where he received an operation paid for by the German government. The local investigation into Fu's attack concluded that Fu's injuries had been self-inflicted, resulting from a fall.



The result of these changes and urban development schemes was the displacement of 1.5 million people between the year 2000 (when Beijing undertook some changes to present a modern face in preparation for its bid) and April of 2007.[26] An estimated 60,000 homes in Beijing were demolished between 2006 and 2008,[27] and entire neighborhoods as well as historic sites were destroyed.

Residents who spoke out have been met with harsh reprisals. Villagers displaced for the construction of the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park in northwest Beijing were poorly compensated even after staging mass protests that delayed construction.[28] While mainland media reported that about 90 million yuan was allocated to the compensation fund by the municipal government, villagers insist that they have seen none of it.[29] Villagers who protested were detained and imprisoned.[30]

Shanghai World Expo

The constructions in and around the 2010 Shanghai World Expo site on both sides of the Huangpu River have resulted in the evictions of 18,000 households and 272 businesses, according to reports.[31]

In advance of the Expo, the Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev train line was expanded, running through historic neighborhoods in Shanghai leading to the evictions of tens of thousands of city residents. Residents were relocated far from their neighborhoods and often in unfinished suburbs of the city, to property worth less than the homes they were moved from.[32] The Maglev train construction lead to protests against the relocations as well as the public's uncertainty about the effect of an electro-magnetic line on public health.[33] Protests against the train's extension have been so strong that they have been seen as one reason why construction was halted last year and progress towards resumption remains stalled.[34]

The authorities have said that because the Expo is a national project, compensation amounts for people relocated are non-negotiable, and claimed that 99.6 percent of residents and 97 percent of businesses reached agreements with the authorities to relocate.[35] Despite this claim, some reports indicate that residents were pressured to leave and in some cases were physically removed from their homes.[36]

Three Gorges Dam

By the time the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei province, the world's largest hydroelectric project, is completed in 2009, it will have cost US $24 billion, and an estimated 1.4 million people will have been displaced.[37] Over the years, authorities have used a variety of tactics to enforce relocation of families and entire villages, including threats of cutting off power and water supplies.[38]

Some displaced residents were moved to new cities nearby at higher ground, but others were relocated to as far as Beijing, Shanghai, or even the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).[39] Other residents who had houses in city centers were moved to suburbs where land value is lower.[4] Relocated residents have also complained that the new homes are poorly constructed.[41]

Other relocations have been similarly problematic. For example, residents from Maoping Village, about 10 kilometers west of the site of the dam, were relocated to a village in Yangguidian, where the major water source was polluted by local factories, causing skin allergies, air pollution, and an increase in kidney diseases.[42]
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HRIC's Advocacy and Media Work on Forced Evictions

HRIC advocacy and media work has sought to call attention to the serious and systemic human rights abuses in China. The following is a listing of HRIC advocacy and media work related to housing rights. To subscribe to HRIC's press list, please e-mail communications@hrichina.org with "SUBSCRIBE" as the subject heading.
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ENDNOTES

[1] Recent official statistics cited by state media suggest that the number of people in China living in "extreme poverty" dropped from 250 million in 1978 to 14.79 million in 2007. "China's extremely poor population declines to less than 15 mln," Xinhuanet, July 8, 2008, at http://rss.xinhuanet.com/newsc/english/2008-07/08/content_8512143.htm.

[2] "WTO: China must address rich-poor gap," China Daily, May 14, 2008, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2008-05/14/content_6683850.htm; "Rural-urban income gap still widening," Xinhua, December 27, 2007, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2007-12/27/content_6352308.htm.

[3] Michael Sheridan, "China frees US 'spy' in Games trade-off," Sunday Times (London), 15 Jul 2001.

[4] "Beijing Olympic Action Plan," March 2002, http://en.beijing2008.cn/59/80/column211718059.shtml; Human Rights in China, "Take Action: 2008 and Beyond," China Rights ForumNo. 3 (2007), 110-121, http://hrichina.org/public/PDFs/CRF.3.2007/CRF-2007-3_Action.pdf.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Human Rights in China, "China's Growing Prominence in the Multilateral Human Rights System," China Rights Forum, No. 1 (2007), 22-28, http://hrichina.org/public/PDFs/CRF.1.2007/CRF-2007-1_Multilateral.pdf.

[7] COHRE, "One World, Whose Dream? Housing Rights Violations and the Beijing Olympic Games," July 2008, 6-7, http://www.cohre.org/beijingreport.

[8] Ibid.

[9] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted by United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1996, effective on January 1976, article 11, http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_cescr.htm.

[10] For more information, see Human Rights in China, "Institutionalized Exclusion: The tenuous legal status of internal migrants in China's major cities," November 6, 2002; Human Rights in China, "Implementation of the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in the People's Republic of China: Submitted in advance of review of the PRC's First Periodic Report," April 2005, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/22060.

[11] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, "Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant: Concluding observations, People's Republic of China (including Hong Kong and Macao)," UN Doc. E/C.12/1/Add.107," May 13, 2005, para. 15.

[12] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, "Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant: Concluding observations, People's Republic of China (including Hong Kong and Macao)," UN Doc. E/C.12/1/Add.107," May 13, 2005, para. 31.

[13] General Comment 7, adopted by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on May 16, 1997, http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/099b725fe87555ec8025670c004fc803/959f71e476284596802564c3005d8d50?OpenDocument#*

[14] PRC Constitution [中华人民共和国民宪法], fourth amendment, article 33 (1982), http://english.people.com.cn/constitution/constitution.html.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Property Law of the People Republic of China (hereafter, Property law) [中华人民共和国物权法], passed by 10th National People's Congress [第十届全国人民代表大会] on March 16, 2007, and effective on October 1, 2007, Art. 42., http://www.gov.cn/flfg/2007-03/19/content_554452.htm.

[18] Regulation on the Eviction of Urban Houses [城市房屋拆迁管理条例], passed by the Standing Committee Meeting of State Council [国务院常务会议], promulgated and effective on November 1, 2001, Art. 8., http://www.mlr.gov.cn/zt/hy/124_2007/xgfg/200712/t20071207_96123.html.

[19] Ibid.

[20] See, e.g., Measure of Beijing Municipality for the Administration of Urban Houses Demolishment [北京城市房屋拆迁管理办法], ordered by People Government of Beijing Municipality [北京城市房屋拆迁管理办法] and effective on November 1, 2001, http://www.bjjs.gov.cn/publish/portal0/tab588/info5023.htm

[21] See, e.g., Human Rights in China, "Implementation of the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in the People's Republic of China: Submitted in advance of review of the PRC's First Periodic Report," April 2005, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/22060.

[22] Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), "Global Survey on Forced Evictions," COHRE report, December 2006, p.67, http://www.cohre.org/store/attachments/GLOBAL%20SURVEY%202003-2006.pdf.

[23] Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), "Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights," June 5, 2007, p. 157-159, http://www.cohre.org/store/attachments/COHRE%27s%20Olympics%20Report.pdf

[24] Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), "Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights," June 5, 2007, p. 157, http://www.cohre.org/store/attachments/COHRE%27s%20Olympics%20Report.pdf.

[25] Ibid.

[26] COHRE, "One World, Whose Dream? Housing Rights Violations and the Beijing Olympic Games," July 2008, 6-7, http://www.cohre.org/beijingreport.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Shi Jiangtao, "Secrecy as Hunt for Outside Games' Volunteers Begins," South China Morning Post, March 29, 2007.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] "Shanghai Defends World EXPO Relocation Project, Residents Disagree" [沪称世博进展好 拆迁户置疑], Voice of America [美国之声], April 24, 2006.

[32] Howard French, "Ire Over Shanghai Rail Line May Signal Turning Point," New York Times, August 10, 2007

[33] Royston Chan and Sophie Taylor, "China: Hundreds Protest Shanghai maglev Rail Extension, Dozens Detained," Reuters, January 12, 2008.

[34] "Shanghai maglev extension not on 2008 start list," Reuters, March 6, 2008.

[35] Bill Savadove, "Residents Cry Foul as Shanghai Hails EXPO Relocation Success," South China Morning Post, June 1, 2006.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), "Global Survey on Forced Evictions," COHRE report, December 2006, p.70, http://www.cohre.org/store/attachments/GLOBAL%20SURVEY%202003-2006.pdf.

[38] "Three Gorges Holdouts Feel the Heat," South China Morning Post, February 27, 2008.

[39] Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), "Global Survey on Forced Evictions," COHRE report, December 2006, p.70, http://www.cohre.org/store/attachments/GLOBAL%20SURVEY%202003-2006.pdf.

[40] "Three Gorges Holdouts Feel the Heat," South China Morning Post, February 27, 2008.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Human Rights in China, "The Case of Fu Xiancai," China Rights Forum, 2006, no. 3, http://hrichina.org/public/PDFs/CRF.3.2006/CRF-2006-3_Fu-Xiancai.pdf.

[43] Human Rights in China, "Prisoner Profile: Zheng Enzhong," China Rights Forum, no. 4, 2003, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/9993.

[44] Human Rights in China, "Prisoner Profile: Zheng Enzhong," China Rights Forum, no. 4, 2003, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/9993; Human Rights in China, "Press Release: Zheng Enchong and 100 Displaced Residents Deman Public Trial for Zhou Zhengyi," July 17, 2007, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/44286.

[45] Human Rights in China, "Prisoner Profile: Zheng Enzhong," China Rights Forum, no. 4, 2003, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/9993.

[46] Human Rights in China, "Press Release: Five-Year Sentence of Olympic Critic Not Human Rights Progess," March 24, 2008, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/48005.

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