Victims of “Development”: Extensive Violations of Human Rights in Forced Evictions of Rural People in China Urgently Need Effective Remedies (July 6, 2006)

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Victims of “Development”: Extensive Violations of Human Rights in Forced Evictions of Rural People in China Urgently Need Effective Remedies

For immediate release

CRD July 6 2006

Victims of “Development

Human Rights Violations Widespread in Land/Housing Eviction of Internally Displaced Persons in the PRC

CRD has submitted this report to relevant UN human rights procedures to communicate its concerns about the alarmingly widespread abuses of human rights involved in forced eviction due to land requisition and housing demolition in the People‘s Republic of China. The report offers an overview and analyses of the grave situation. It then presents two typical but also urgent cases the Zigong case and the Putian case. But the abuses are geographically widespread.


Disputes over state requisition of land in rural areas are probably the most common cause of social unrest in China‘s countryside today. Given that in many of these cases people’s livelihood is at stake this is not at all surprising. The scale of the problem is also indicative more than 66 million farmers are thought to have lost their land between 1990 and 2002[1] and up to two million more may be joining their number annually.[2] Unlawful and unjust expropriation of land has resulted in the displacement of millions of farmers who have lost not only their land but also their homes. The three principal areas which give rise to disputes over land requisition in rural China today are inadequate compensation lack of transparency and consultation and the absence of effective remedies.

These disputes and the failure to resolve the issues that have caused them lead to extensive violations of human rights including civil political economic and social rights. Where cases remain unresolved the economic and social rights violations are compounded over time due to the severe effects on the affected people‘s livelihoods and living environments.

Sometimes such disputes have become violent most notably in Shanwei Guangdong Province in December 2005 where police opened fire on villagers demonstrating against expropriation of their land killing at least three and probably many more.[3] Authorities in other cases have used violent thugs to try to break up villager protests. In some cases frustrated villagers have fought back and peaceful protests turned violent when all their efforts to find a resolution to their grievances come to naught. In such cases long-standing disputes finally get the attention from higher authorities they deserve although often so-called “ring leaders” of protesting villagers are sent to prison.

But what of those land requisition disputes where displaced people continue to pursue their claims through peaceful means Mostly they fall under the media radar screen and remain unresolved year after year while those affected suffer increasing hardship. Even when they are reported by domestic and international media and taken up by concerned scholars there is no guarantee that this will result in resolution of the original grievances. In two appendices we provide a brief account of two such disputes from the suburbs of Zigong City Sichuan Province[4] and one from Putian Fujian Province which has recently resulted in the imprisonment of a leader of protesting farmers Huang Weizhong. Echoing many such cases from around the country one involves the building of a huge new university campus while the other relates to a purported “development zone” which turned out to be essentially a real estate development.

Disputes over the expropriation of rural land on the borders of urban districts highlight the problems of a system that gives too much discretionary power to local governments to make deals apparently in the “public interest”[5] in which they may reap huge profits without requiring proper consultation or a clear and transparent approval process. Such a system combined with the pressure on local officials to show “results” in their pursuit of “development”[6] often leads to unholy alliances between government and business interests in which the real public interest—the rights of local people the environment cultural preservation and so on—is ignored.[7] “[I]n the use of rural land the state tends to assume a predatory role in the sense that the local state and its agents often ignore the basic interests of the peasantry.”[8] These disputes also reveal how the available avenues of redress and remedy often fail to deal with cases in which interests of officials come into conflict with those of local people. When frustrated local people try to voice their grievances or protest their actions are often criminalized and they become subject to police harassment and intimidation.

Please click here for the full report in pdf file

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