Victims of Housing Rights Violation Barred from Seeking Redress

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Without Protection of Civil-Political Rights, Victims of Housing Rights Violation Barred from Seeking Redress

CRD has been asked to publicize an open letter to Shanghai authorities signed by 428 housing activists. In the letter released on 28 November, 2005, the activists protest about police intercepting and forcing them to return to Shanghai when they were trying to petition central government to investigate what they deemed to be unfair compensation and forced seizure of their residential housing properties.

In this open letter, the activists document incidents of extortion, corruption, beating and imprisonment of fellow housing activists. The activists also take an proactive approach by proposing three options for resolving the disputes: (1) Regulating the housing market according to international conventions (especially. relevant WTO stipulations) and rule of law, forcing officials out of the their illicit and corrupt liaisons with commercial developers. (2) Providing fair compensation that seriously considers the issues of the location of the properties and the convenience of residents. (3) Experimenting with housing co-ops, where residents, developers, and government pool funds to provide affordable housing for the forced relocatees.

CRD urges Shanghai authorities to investigate accusations of police brutality, arbitrary detention,and official corruption, and to bring those responsible to justice. CRD supports the activists’ demands that Shanghai authorities take necessary measures to hold public consultation sessions, listening to complaints by forcibly relocated residents, and seeking fair solutions according to the rule of law.

For a dozen years, local officials, police, and commercial developers have been using force to seize valuable housing properties at below-market prices for profitable commercial construction. Those who have been forced out of their residences, have had their houses demolished without being accorded sufficient compensation to buy replacement housing. They have tried to gain redress through administrative and legal channels but have suffered retaliation from local authorities as a consequence – beating, imprisonment, and persecution of their lawyers.

Prior to the US President Bush’s visit last week and a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture this week, the housing activists were once again intercepted on their way to Beijing to petition Central government authorities. Separately, CRD has also obtained information that more than 1,500 petitioners from other parts of the country were forced to return to their home provinces in a mass clean-up by authorities to prevent anyone trying to meet President Bush or the UN Special Rapporteur.

The continuing suppression of housing activists is one example of social-economic rights violations due to the lack of protection of PRC citizens’ right to participation in public policy-making, to protest, and to freedom of association, assembly, and expression.

August 29, 2005

See full text of the Open Letter in Chinese at Article_Show.asp?ArticleID=160

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