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Refugee Land Confiscation Leaves Thousands Homeless

June 11, 2004

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that the government of Ningde City, Fujian Province has forcibly confiscated land originally set aside for overseas Chinese seeking refuge in China, rendering thousands of these refugees homeless.

A source in China has provided HRIC with a report by Chinese legal scholar Zhang Yaojie (the report is appended to the Chinese press release). According to the report, the farming community of Donghutang, on the outskirts of Ningde City, was originally set aside in 1965 as one of 194 locations in China recognized by the United Nations for the resettlement of ethnic Chinese refugees from Indonesia, Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries. The farmlands included paddy fields, orchards, fishponds and other cultivatable land totaling 15,700 mu. Over the years, the property’s proximity to Ningde City has caused its value to increase substantially. In September 1998 the local government issued an unlawful document to confiscate the land at a compensation of 15,000,000 yuan, or 1,000 yuan per mu – a tiny fraction of the compensation of 60,000 to 120,000 yuan per mu paid to local, non-refugee residents.

Ongoing protests by Donghutang residents to prevent clearance of the land and insist on more appropriate compensation have resulted in several instances of violent clashes in which villagers have been injured. For example, in October 2003 villagers insisting on more compensation for the loss of their crops were brutally beaten by employees of the company developing the land. One of the villagers, He Guande, is still receiving treatment for injuries to his back and head. Other villagers have been reduced to poverty after being removed from the land from which they earned their livelihood. He Shenfu and his wife and child depend on emergency relief funds of 380 yuan per month for their survival, out of which they must pay nearly 100 yuan for utilities. Many families have taken refuge in rubbish-strewn shacks, and don’t even have adequate financial resources to support their children’s basic education.

Hundreds of Donghutang residents signed their names to a petition to the central government calling for intervention in the case, and the State Council has on several occasions instructed the local government to work out an equitable resolution. But the local government has turned a deaf ear to these orders, and has continued with its forcible confiscation and clearance of the land. In his report, Zhang Yaojie notes that the Ningde municipal government doesn’t even have adequate financial resources to develop all of the confiscated land, as a result of which much of it has remained fallow and vacant following the forcible clearances.

“Forcible removal and confiscation for redevelopment of land is a growing source of discontent throughout China, and an issue that the Chinese government needs to resolve quickly,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “But what makes this case even more serious is the apparent undermining of domestic Chinese legal provisions protecting the rights of overseas Chinese refugees. The central government should intervene to ensure local compliance with these laws.”