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Relocation Petitioners Rebuffed

March 13, 2003

For Immediate Release
March 13, 2003

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that a group of 45 people protesting redevelopment of their Shanghai neighborhood were prevented from petitioning Beijing authorities with their grievance.

Sources told HRIC that the 45 Shanghai residents, including Wang Mingqing and Sun Dongming, were determined to petition Beijing authorities over their dissatisfaction with the terms and compensation offered to them in the redevelopment of their neighborhood. In an attempt to circumvent the heightened security measures imposed on Beijing during the meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the petitioners split up into several small groups and traveled to Beijing separately. In spite of their precautions, the petitioners were rounded up by plain-clothes police officers within hours of their arrival in Beijing on March 6 and were bundled back onto a train for Shanghai.

Upon their return to Shanghai, the petitioners were met by another group of public security police officers and housing officials and escorted back to their homes. Shanghai’s Party Secretary, Chai Junyong, later met with the petitioners and promised to deal with their complaints. But at least one petitioner, Huang Shizhen, was arrested and detained overnight.

Sources told HRIC that the group of 45 that went to Beijing was in fact only a small number of those who are protesting clearance of their neighborhood. More than one hundred people wanted to join the petition campaign to Beijing, but decided not to after being warned by local officials or in some cases because they were under tight surveillance. After the aborted effort on March 6, a group of more than ten people decided to make another attempt, and left for Beijing on the evening of March 11. Nothing has been heard from them since, and their friends in Shanghai fear for the worst.

Sources told HRIC that the residents have for some time been engaged in discussions with Shanghai authorities over the clearance of their neighborhood, but are doubtful of an acceptable outcome. Discontent over neighborhood redevelopment is a chronic problem in China, with complaints typically falling into five categories:

1) Economic inequity. Residents claim that compensation for their homes is inadequate and not delivered according to policy.

2) Forcible execution. Residents feel they are offered no chance to negotiate with developers before being forced to leave their homes, and are sometimes left homeless because of inadequate compensation.

3) Personal hardship. Residents who refuse to leave their homes prior to clearance often experience significant personal hardship such as extended detentions.

4) No means of appeal. Government officials and courts seldom pay heed to residents appealing decisions to clear their neighborhoods. Some lawyers who try to assist residents in such appeals, such as Shanghai’s Zheng Enchong, are punished by having their law licenses revoked.

5) Government officials in league with developers. Residents of redeveloped neighborhoods sometimes find that government officials have a personal stake in the redevelopment project that makes them entirely unsympathetic to complaints.

HRIC urges Chinese officials to make a genuine effort to resolve the many complaints that arise in clearance and redevelopment of old neighborhoods, and welcomes the overtures made by Shanghai officials to deal with the present ongoing dispute. Regarding the thwarted petition, HRIC president Liu Qing points out, “Chinese officials should not prevent citizens from presenting petitions to Beijing, which is their legal right. We will be closely monitoring what happens to those petitioners who returned to Beijing on March 11.”

For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495