Threats, Torture and Death during land Expropriations in China
October 11, 2012
Amnesty International denounces government abuses during illegal property seizures.
By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 11, 2012
China is one of the largest countries in the world. However, its size does not prevent the Chinese government from using force to steal property of the people whenever it see wants. Not even the rapid development experienced by the Asian giant can explain why citizens are being evicted from their houses and other properties so massively, or why the government uses brutality to take them out of their homes without paying them a fair price for them.
The Chinese government increased the number of forced evictions of people from their homes and land throughout the country just as fast as the country develops. These evictions are often done illegally. The government practice of taking people out of their properties almost always includes abuses of power and corruption, as the population gets fed up with the requests to leave. The strong discontent in the population resulted in numerous protests, as documented in the report presented by Amnesty International (AI), headquartered in London.
AI says that cases of forced evictions have increased significantly in China, because local officials collude with developers to seize and then sell the property seized, to pay government debts. The organization, citing activists, lawyers and Chinese scholars, says that evictions have increased during the construction boom that the country has experienced since launched a plan to stimulate the economy in late 2008 to address the global crisis.
Local officials often resort to the sale of land for capital to meet the goals of infrastructure construction set by Beijing. The report issued by AI includes the period between February 2010 and January 2012, details how pressures and violence are used often. The Mafia that runs this scheme resorts to sending thugs on people whose lands are to be seized, which usually results in the torture and death of the property owners.
Of the 40 cases of forced evictions Amnesty International describes on the report, nine ended in deaths when the land owners resisted. In a case, a 70 year old woman was buried alive by a bulldozer while trying to prevent the demolition of her house. The event took place in the province of Hubei.
In a separate case, police in the city of Wenchang kidnapped a baby and refused to return him to the mother unless she signed eviction documents. Some of the people who refused to leave, were sent to jail and concentration camps. Others went to detention centers which are spread all over China.
The report includes testimony from a woman from the city of Hexia, who was beaten and sterilized after she protested her having to leave. Amnesty International documented the occurrence of 41 cases of people who lit themselves on fire in an act of desperation due to the abuse which they were submitted to by the police and the thugs. These events happened between 2009 and 2012.
“The problem of forced evictions is the greatest source of popular discontent in China and is a serious threat to social and political stability,” says AI. The organization requested the end of the evictions and to guarantee that people will not be left homeless or abused because of their opposition to the expropriation process. AI does not have the complete accounting of the number of people who have been forced to leave their properties, but the organization says that there is no question that the number of victims has increased exponentially.
In China, just as it happens in most countries, the land belongs to the government or local authorities, and these entities can simply argue that the evictions are in the interest of the majority and that the projects to be developed there outweigh any property rights. In general, governments are obligated by law to pay the value of the property, but more often than not, the payments are well below the right amount. In China as it happens in other countries, a bribery system is employed to assure developers that they won’t have to pay too much for the property. In other cases, the government buys the land with taxpayer money and hands the property over to the developers, who then make millions on a small investment.
In the case of China, the call from the Chinese Communist Party to force development encouraged local authorities to use any means available to carry out that mission. The plan of the Chinese government includes the seizure of lands to build roads, factories, shopping centers and other infrastructure. The problem is in China is that government has resorted to all kinds of violent acts to kick people out without paying them what they deserve for their homes.
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