As Shanghai welcomes visitors from around the world to an Expo that boasts the theme of “Better City, Better Life,” some of Shanghai’s residents are still trying to find a home, years after the authorities forced them out of their residences to make way for the mega-event.
Li Guanrong (李贯荣), wife of an industrial worker, told Human Rights in China (HRIC) that the site of their former home is now the Life and Sunshine Pavilion in the Expo, a pavilion dedicated to poverty alleviation and better urban life for disadvantaged people, among other goals. Three years after their home was demolished, they still have not been resettled or received any compensation. She and her husband, Zhou Jinhong (周锦洪), have travelled multiple times to Beijing to petition. Instead of redress, what they have received so far are handcuffs and detention cells. She said that, rather than giving them a “better life,” the Shanghai Expo has made their lives “utterly awful.”
Li told HRIC that on the night of February 9, 2007, a large group of people, including functionaries from the local neighborhood committee, officers from the local police substation, and World Expo security guards, broke into their home to evict them and to demolish it. Li resisted and said to the evictors, “I’d sooner kill myself in this house!” The evictors did not stop and proceeded to physically carry Li and Zhou out. They took the couple to a guesthouse and detained them for more than two months.
In 1984, Zhou Jinhong took over his father’s job at the state-owned Pugang Steel (formerly the Shanghai No. 3 Iron and Steel Works, also known as Shanggang), a subsidiary of Baosteel Group Co., and moved into the company dormitory, at Apartment 102, No. 1 Zhoulian Xincun, 300 Shangnan Road, Pudong New Area, Shanghai. Zhou also transferred his household registration to that address, where he eventually married and started a family. After he was laid off in 2001, Zhou, Li, and their son continued to live in the 16-square meter apartment.
Li said: “After the Expo relocations began in 2007, the Expo office, Pugang Steel, the Shanggang neighborhood committee, and the Shanggang local police substation together illegally pocketed the compensations meant for residents of the dormitory, and then forcibly carried out the eviction without any negotiation for a relocation agreement or even sending an administrative notice of demolition and relocation.”
The couple said in an April 2009 open letter that they circulated online, “After we were released from detention, we went back to have a look. It had already been leveled, and everything we had in our home had vanished.” Li told HRIC that they had to rent an apartment. “Our family of three was crowded into a room of around five square meters.”
Zhou and Li began petitioning shortly thereafter. The couple said in their December 2008 open letter to President Hu Jintao that an official from the Shanghai Municipal Bureau for Letters and Calls – which is jointly run by the municipal government and the party committee – told them, “Your former employer is a state-owned enterprise, and this is not the problem of the Shanghai municipal government. Go to Beijing to petition the Party Central Committee or State Council.” Li told HRIC that over the course of three years they went to Beijing more than ten times to petition, and that each time, without fail, they were intercepted by the Shanghai police, brought back to Shanghai, and given administrative warnings or detained. From November 2009 till the present, she and/or her husband have been administratively detained six times.
Most recently, Zhou, on a petitioning trip to Beijing, was picked up by Shanghai police on April 15, 2010. He was brought back to Shanghai and then criminally detained on the charge of “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.” On April 24, the Shanghai police informed Li that her husband “could be ordered to serve Reeducation-Through-Labor.” She has heard nothing further about her husband and has not seen him since he was first detained.
Li said that in October 2009, her husband was fired from his job as a security guard because of his petitioning. Li said that their son is still in high school, and now her family has no income. Li said, “Since our home was demolished for the World Expo there have been no arrangements for resettlement or even a penny of compensation. What I want is very simple: a place to live.”
Li said that recently, following frequent visits from the police, their landlord has asked them to leave because he didn’t want the trouble.
HRIC urges the relevant authorities – local and central – to investigate and resolve Li Guanrong and Zhou Jinhong’s demand for compensation and housing relocation. A “Better City, Better Life” cannot be built on the violations of the rights of citizens.