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Anhui Business Owner Harassed for Defending Property Rights

July 5, 2007

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received a report from a small manufacturer, Su Wenju, alleging that a government-run real estate development project led to the demolition of the factory she was leasing in Jixi County, Anhui Province, interfering in her private property rights and resulting in a loss of one million yuan. Although a local court ruled in her favor, Su says she has yet to be compensated for her loss, and that she has been harassed and detained by police.

After being laid off from a state-owned enterprise, Su established a pharmaceutical packaging business, the Huang-Shan Plastic Bottle Manufacturing Co., and in July 2002 signed a 10-year lease for the ground floor of a county-operated flour mill. Su’s business was enjoying financial success in 2003 when the neighborhood was earmarked for redevelopment as a “pedestrian shopping mall” by Jixi County officials and the Kangda Real Estate Development Company. The project was headed up by Zhou Xiaoqiu, the chairman of the Jixi County Economic and Trade Committee and also general manager of Kangda Real Estate, where his son was a director. Su alleges that Zhou and his son colluded with city and county officials to make an enormous profit from the development under the pretext of performing their official duties.

HRIC deplores the unlawful seizure of Su Wenju’s property by local officials, which undermines reforms and protections already enshrined in the PRC Constitution.

Su Wenju had been notified of the redevelopment plan, but none of the compensation required by law had been negotiated when the Kangda Real Estate Development Company began demolishing Su’s factory on January 10, 2005. Su appealed to the county and city construction committee and to the police to halt the demolition, but was ignored. Su subsequently reported the case to the local procuratorate, demanding compensation, and two rounds of negotiations were undertaken on March 21 and March 23, 2005, between Su, the county and city construction committee, the developer and the legal representative of the factory building. With no further progress by May 2005, Su sued the Jixi County and City Construction Committee for administrative inaction and failure to perform its duty of official oversight. The court of first instance found the construction committee guilty of neglecting its official duty to stop an illegal demolition, and the property developer was found liable for the illegal demolition. The court of second instance upheld this verdict in November 2005.

Su referred the case to Guo Jinlong, Party secretary of Anhui Province, while he was visiting Jixi County, and Guo reportedly instructed the county Party committee to resolve the matter, but with no result. Su also met with County Party Secretary Zhao Minsheng on several occasions, only to be threatened with detention. In search of justice, Su began exercising her right to petition Beijing in June 2006. However, Zhao Minsheng reportedly sent county public security police to Beijing to forcibly escort Su back to Jixi County, where she was detained on trumped-up allegations of interfering in the execution of public duties. Local police reportedly forged Su’s husband’s signature on a receipt of Notice of Administrative Punishment, and Su was held in administrative detention for 10 days. Following her release, Su petitioned Beijing again in March 2007, with the result that her husband and daughter were threatened and harassed by local officials. Su remains in Beijing at present, afraid that she will be arrested if she returns to Jixi County.

The new PRC Property Law, which will come into effect in October 2007, reflects efforts at increasing protections being afforded to Chinese citizens. HRIC deplores the unlawful seizure of Su Wenju’s property by local officials, which undermines these reforms and protections already enshrined in the PRC Constitution. HRIC also protests the harassment of Su and her family as she pursues her rights in this case, including her right to petition the authorities. HRIC urges the Jixi County authorities to ensure that Su Wenju receives the compensation to which she is entitled.