Submission to UN on Chen Wenzhong – October 14, 2016

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Submission to:

Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context

Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Communiqué on Behalf of Chen Wenzhong, Citizen of the People’s Republic of China,

Alleging Human Rights Violations

Identity of Victim

1. Family name: Chen ()

2. First name: Wenzhong (文忠)

3. Sex: Female

4. Birth date: June 7, 1968

5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China

6. (a) Identity document: ID Card

7. Profession and/or activity: Chen Wenzhong used to be a small business owner. In fear of official retaliation, Ms. Chen ended her business in 2012, before she began to petition and seek legal redress. Chen Wenzhong has been homeless since her living unit was demolished in late 2013 and no alternative housing or compensation was provided by the government. Chen has become a human rights defender working on her and other cases of land rights abuses. 

8. Address of demolished home: Changsha City, Hunan Province, China

Case Details

On July 20, 2011, the Changsha City Kaifu District Government solicited opinions from homeowners at Fuyuan Garden Apartment Complex (Fuyuan Garden) in Kaifu District, Changsha City, regarding an expropriation plan. 65% of the homeowners rejected the plan, but no consultation meeting was held, in violation of China’s “Regulation on the Expropriation of Buildings on State-owned Land and Compensation,” which stipulates that a hearing must take place when a majority of homeowners disagree with a development plan (article 11).

On March 20, 2012, after not holding the hearing as required by law, the Kaifu District Government issued a notice for the “Changsha City Huangxinbei Road Shantytowns Reconstruction Project” along with a preliminary evaluation plan to assess housing values and a compensation scheme.

On November 1, 2012 (see Attachment A), and July 19, 2013, respectively, the Changsha City Land Bureau responded to Chen Wenzhong’s Open Government Information (OGI) applications by confirming that Fuyuan Garden was not listed as an area to be expropriated under the reconstruction project.

On July 1, 2013, in a reply to Ms. Chen’s OGI request, the Changsha City Urban and Rural Planning Bureau also stated that Fuyuan Garden was not included in the expropriation plan. The Planning Bureau specifically pointed out that Fuyuan Garden was not included in the area to be reconstructed under the “Changsha City Huangxinbei Road Shantytown Renovation Project,” as its land use permit did not contain Ms. Chen’s building complex. The Bureau replied two more times, on September 19, 2014 (see Attachment B), and April 2, 2015, and confirmed that Fuyuan Garden’s original land use permit and building permit have not been changed, revoked, or canceled. In other words, the responsible government authorities had confirmed that no renovation project would take place in the location of Chen Wenzhong’s building complex.

On August 4, 2013, along with nine other homeowners, Ms. Chen submitted a joint petition to the Kaifu District Government calling an end to the appropriation and demolition of Fuyuan Garden, on the grounds that it was not part of the reconstruction project plans, according to previous communications. However, no reply was given to the petitioners. 

On November 29, 2013, several buildings of Fuyuan Garden (including the unit of property that Chen Wenzhong resided and owned) were demolished without any known notification or legal document ordering the demolition. The demolition occurred when Ms. Chen was not at home, and when she had not reached any agreement regarding compensation with government authorities.

On December 1, 2013, Chen Wenzhong was informed by her neighbors of the demolition, and that her unit had been completely destroyed. After Ms. Chen reported to the police and submitted numerous OGI requests to the Changsha City Public Security Bureau (PSB), the department verified on two instances, February 25, 2014, and April 24, 2015, that the demolition was conducted by the Changsha City Kaifu District Government. 

Starting in 2013, Ms. Chen filed a series of administrative lawsuits against the Kaifu District Government in order to seek justice over the illegal expropriation plan, unfair compensation scheme, and the illegal demolition of her home. However, none of the suits received a fair, impartial, and open hearing, either by the Changsha City Intermediate People’s Court or the Hunan Provincial Higher People’s Court (during the second-instance hearing). Hence, Ms. Chen lost all three lawsuits. Ms. Chen then filed complaints with the Hunan Provincial People’s Procuratorate for procedural and legal violations that she alleged took place during the hearings, including deprivation of her right to defend her case and to have her submitted evidence acknowledged by presiding judges. However, while the Procuratorate acknowledged faults by the Kaifu District Government in the planning and demolition phases of the expropriation scheme, the Procuratorate refused to recognize these irregularities as legal violations.

Authorities have stonewalled efforts by Ms. Chen and other affected homeowners to seek redress, as they have protected the interests of state agents rather than handle the lawsuits and complaints with independence, fairness, and impartiality. Ms. Chen and other former homeowners have submitted petitions of complaint to 11 government organs, but without receiving any response or assistance. In 2013, homeowners also had applied for a permit to hold a peaceful demonstration with approximately 200 stakeholders—to express dissatisfaction with the eviction and demolition project. However, the Changsha City PSB denied this application, claiming that the demonstration would endanger public safety or disrupt social order, and citing China’s Law on Assemblies, Processions, and Demonstrations (Article 12, para. 4).       

Information relating to Torture

Kaifu District authorities undertook cruel treatment, including a series of violent actions, toward Chen Wenzhong and other former homeowners at Fuyuan Garden in Changsha City, Hunan Province. Ms. Chen was not seized prior to, during, or after her home was demolished.

Forces carrying out the torture:

State personnel from Kaifu District Government’s demolition department. 

Description of the form and methods of torture used and any injury sustained as a result.

  • Noise disturbance: State propaganda about land expropriation was played on loud speakers in the neighborhood, from morning to midnight. The loud volume negatively affected the lives of the residents, causing tremendous anxiety and other forms of psychological stress and suffering.   
  • Violent retaliation: When homeowners refused to open their doors to state agents, hammers and steel rods were used to destroy and force open doors; staircases on the first and second floors were destroyed to prevent Chen Wenzhong and other homeowners from returning to their residences on upper levels; structural walls separating apartment units were taken down, making the building hazardous to occupy; and wires for electricity were cut in retaliation for refusing to move out of the complex (see Attachment C).   
  • Physical assault: One homeowner suffered four broken ribs after being severely beaten for protesting against the demolition.
  • Harassment and threats: Authorities visited employers of some residents at Fuyuan Garden and threatened homeowners with the loss of their jobs if they did not agree to the expropriation plan.

Were any person, such as a lawyer, relatives or friends, permitted to see the alleged victim(s) during detention? If so, how long after the arrest?


What was believed to be the purpose of the torture?

The inhumane and illegal actions used against homeowners at Fuyuan Garden were meant to intimidate and force them into signing agreements with the Kaifu District Government regarding land expropriation.

Was the alleged victim(s) examined by a doctor at any point during or after her/his ordeal? If so, when? Was the examination performed by a prison or government doctor?

The homeowner who was beaten was hospitalized, and a doctor diagnosed that he had suffered four broken ribs.

Was appropriate treatment received for injuries sustained as a result of the torture?


Was the examination performed in a manner which would enable the doctor to detect evidence of injuries sustained as a result of the torture?


Were any medical reports or certificates issued? If so, what did the reports reveal?


If the alleged victim(s) died in custody, was an autopsy or forensic examination performed and which were the results?


Substantiating information concerning the incident

Please find 3 attachments providing evidence of, or further information related to, the incident: Attachment A (Land Bureau), Attachment B (Urban and Rural Planning Bureau), and Attachment C (photos).

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