Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that 4,000 peasants from villages surrounding Zigong City, Sichuan Province, have submitted a petition to the central government alleging wrongdoing by the deputy secretary of the disciplinary inspection committee of Sichuan Province, Liu Youlin, in relation to the confiscation of more than 15,000 mu of land. Forced clearance of the rural property, with an estimated value of more than 5 billion yuan, has reportedly displaced and rendered homeless some 30,000 Zigong residents.
HRIC has obtained a copy of the petition, sent by express mail to Chinese President Hu Jintao and other top officials earlier this month. The allegations focus on Liu Youlin, who is also head of the provincial procuratorate; his younger brother, Liu Weilin; and a former subordinate, Shi Jun. The petition alleges that beginning in 1993, Liu Youlin and other officials contravened national laws and regulations in confiscating 15,000 mu of land and displacing more than 10,000 households totaling more than 30,000 people. This land was sold to developers at prices of 100,000 to 1.8 million yuan per mu, or an average of 300,000 to 450,000 yuan per mu, for an estimated total exceeding 5 billion yuan. The displaced residents, in the meantime, were compensated at a rate of only 150 yuan per square meter, while the price for replacement homes averages 850 yuan per square meter.
An article by a Chinese sociologist, Zhang Yaojie, states that displaced Zigong peasants aged 18 to 40 (around one third of the total) have been offered a lump sum of 8,000 yuan in compensation for their loss of livelihood, while those aged over 40 have been offered a subsistence allowance of 54 yuan per month.
The Zigong property was confiscated in the name of the “Zigong High Tech Manufacturing Development Zone,” but so far most of the property has reportedly been developed into commercial premises that provide no employment to peasants who have lost their agricultural land. Displaced residents have put up long-term resistance to the confiscation and clearance, but local authorities have violently suppressed their efforts, deploying upwards of 1,000 police officers to beat and detain protesters.
According to reports written by Zhang Yaojie, on May 20, 2003, seven days after a visit to Zigong by Chinese president Hu Jintao, some 200 police officers were deployed to suppress a protest by residents of Hongqi Xiang in Baiguo Village who were attempting to prevent clearance of their land. More than a dozen residents were injured in a violent confrontation with police, with three critically injured and several dozen detained. On July 4, 2003, Baiguo residents told the news media that municipal and county public security bureaus deployed around 1,000 uniformed police officers to forcefully clear Hongqi Xiang, resulting in dozens of villagers being injured, and more than 30 detained.
The Zigong petitioners allege that a loyal lieutenant of Liu Youlin, Hongqi Xiang village head Chen Wenxian, lives a lifestyle incommensurate with his public service salary, controlling extensive property, a private company, several private cars and other assets allegedly totally tens of millions of yuan.
The petition, with the names of signatories, is appended in full to the Chinese press release. Only 3,661 names are provided because some became obscured or were illegible. Every name was accompanied by an address and identity card number, but this information is provided in the appended document only for the two lead petitioners because of space constraints.
“The Zigong villagers have submitted this petition in a last-ditch effort to protect their interests after all other modes of recourse failed,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “Unlawful property confiscation and mass displacement of residents has become an increasingly serious issue in China in recent years. The detailed allegations presented by the petitioners suggest that this is a particularly egregious case of official corruption, which may serve as an important test of whether China’s leaders have the will and ability to adequately protect the rights and interests of private citizens.”