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Shanghai Clearance Petitioners Thwarted Again

April 17, 2003

For Immediate Release

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that representatives of households affected by urban clearance in Shanghai have been arrested during an attempt to petition officials in Beijing.

Representatives of more than 300 households, including Ai Furong and Wang Huifang, had approached the Shanghai mayor, Han Zheng, and the Municipal Party Secretary, Chen Liangyu, at a cemetery during the Qing Ming Festival on April 5 and requested a meeting to discuss serious breaches of personal and property rights in a major urban clearance. The encounter caused considerable tension among the officials, who sent three hundred police officers to the cemetery to prevent the possibility of physical conflict. Finally Shanghai’s deputy municipal secretary general, Chai Junyong, came forward to accept a petition from the resident representatives, and promised in writing that officials would meet with the representatives on the afternoon of April 14. But when the time for the meeting came along, officials cancelled it at the last minute and sent police officers to disperse the representatives who had turned up for the meeting. More than thirty of the residents’ representatives, angry at the rebuff, went to the Shanghai train station and several of them, including Kang Xiuzhen, purchased tickets to Beijing for April 17. But almost immediately public security police arrested three of the representatives and detained them all day, and their train tickets were confiscated.

Some of these representatives had already traveled to Beijing before in mid-March to petition authorities over their grievances, but had been rounded up by police shortly after their arrival and immediately bundled on a train returning to Shanghai. At that time Shanghai officials had urged the residents not to petition, but to allow the authorities some time to resolve the matter. But with no further action in evidence, the residents decided to resume their protest activities. Sources say that the most recent detentions are unlikely to thwart the residents, who are determined to step up protest activities if necessary to achieve an acceptable resolution.

According to HRIC’s sources, the residents consider their protests a matter of survival. Sources say that clearance policies have abused the rights of many residents. For example, the family of Sun Meizhen owned a rental property measuring 140 square meters (about 1260 square feet), but the real estate company redeveloping the neighborhood only agreed to compensate for a 30 square meter unit. Many other residents are similarly dissatisfied with the compensation offered for their property, and there is a widespread belief that local government officials are in league with developers.

A number of householders have died or been severely injured in the course of neighborhood redevelopment in Shanghai. Some examples:

  • Ma Yufen of Shenyang Rd., Lane 132, #2, drowned herself in the river after being forcibly removed from her property.
  • Sun Jiafu of 233 Meizhou Rd. committed suicide two days after being forcibly removed from his property.
  • Liu Guilan of Shenyang Rd., Lane 60, #53, suffered a heart attack and died soon after being forced from his property.
  • She Youlong of Hangzhou Rd., Lane 23, #19, likewise succumbed to illness soon after being forcibly removed from his home.
  • Ding Guozhang of 215 Meizhou Rd. also died soon after removal.
  • Those severely beaten by police officers and security guards during clearances include: Chen Xiangshan, Zhang Zhiping, Zhang Shihua, Zhou Jianping, Sun Jiahong, Zhou Jinshan, Zhou Guixiang, Wang Zhongbao and dozens of others.

    A lawyer who assisted Shanghai residents in clearance cases, Zheng Enchong, had his license revoked and has not been allowed to practice law for several years. Nevertheless, he has insisted on using every opportunity to deliver the same message to the authorities and society in general: “In planning the redevelopment of portions of the city, the authorities have failed to provide a public hearing process; in determining compensation, the authorities have failed to provide a fair assessment board; when disputes have arisen in negotiations over clearance, there has been no just, objective and independent judicial recourse. As a result the problems arising from neighborhood clearance have not had any effective legal solution. Administrative problems have become social problems, and in some cases have even become political problems.” For this reason Zheng Enchong advocates amending Article 10 of China’s Constitution to clarify ownership rights relating to land and residential property.

    HRIC is very concerned over the problems of personal and property rights that have arisen over the last few years in urban redevelopment programs. “The Chinese government needs to undertake a thorough revision of the relevant laws and procedures,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “Otherwise the government will never be able to eradicate the prevailing public view that it is in league with the developers at the expense of the rights and interests of ordinary people.”

    HRIC also urges the Chinese government to respect the rights of dissatisfied residents to petition officials with their demands, and to establish an independent body to help resolve ongoing disputes.

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