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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Elderly Uygur Man Killed in Forced House Eviction

The Epoch Times:

the"On March 10, in Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, an elderly man was killed when he refused to vacate his home while it was being demolished for new land development. "The Epoch Times

I find this report disturbing on two fronts. Firstly, and obviously, someone has reportedly died and that is enough in itself but on a second front such an event occurred whilst the National People's Congress was in session with it's obviously premeditated theme of "People First" (this incident is supposed to have happened around the 10th of March)

Alright, you may say we have here a local, over zealous, official whose orders for a bulldozer to go in when someone was still in the house resulted in an accidental death. Obviously the death was not intended but on the other hand injury or death to the person is apossible scenario when you drive a bulldozer into an occupied house. This in my books constitutes manslaughter as any anyone acting with a similar result in most free countries would now be facing criminal charges.

But this event is typical and the Chinese have a very long history in forced home evictions. Thousands have reportedly occurred in Beijing as China makes way for the Beijing Olympics. Hundreds have occurred in Xinjiang and primarily those most effected are the Uygur ethnic minority. More times than not graft and corruption is involved in these forced evictions. To quote the article;

"A man surnamed Shan, manager of the Real Estate Management Division of KRPC, said that the local government even showed forged documents to force the company to tear down retired employees recreation center. Shan said that although the company knew the government's actions were illegal, they did not dare to oppose the government for fear of the consequences.

This type of things happen more often against the Uygur because, by virtue of their repressed and fearful position, it is unlikely that they will make formal complaints. Corrupt officials in the pay of the developers can virtually do as they please

Legally, of course,the State is the owner of all property in China, as such they "legally" have the right to evict "tenants". It does not matter, as probably is the case in this instance, that we are talking one hundred plus year old buildings that were "appropriated" by the communist Government in 1949 from the very same people they are now evicting. The law is the law.

But look at this case in point to understand the methodology and inherent cruelty in the Han's actions. The tennant "received notification a week before the demolition" according to a local policeman. This person as is the case in many instances, could have been living in this house for decades and it may have been in the family for one hundred plus years. To receive one weeks notice is a horrendous.

Then, as is the case here, the dispossessed are offered "compensation" or "relocation expenses". This compensation has nothing to do with the house value it is literally just enough to re-locate. A dispute over the monetary value of the compensation payment appears to have been the catalyst for this tragedy

What is an added concern is that these demolitions are wholesale and do not take into consideration any heritage/cultural value of the properties. Admittedly to a westerners eyes some of the demolitions have been of properties one could class as "slum" properties however they are part of a cultural lifestyle.

Kashgar (Kashi), the city in Xinjiang where this incident is reported to have occurred has been an Uygur city since well before the 9th century C.E. It was once an important Silk Road town and was visited by Marco Polo in the 13th century. As a center of learning religion and culture it was once pre-eminent in Central Asia. To turn it into a concrete and glass jungle as the Han have done with the Xinjiang capital Urumqi is a travesty and this alone should bring the attention of the world upon what is happening there if the death of an old man does not. No one can stand in the way of progess admiitedly but wholesale destruction is another thing.

Apart from the heritage implications we have the cultural aspect. Uygur homes typically are very open airy affairs. Some have garden and rooftop areas suitable for outside seating. This is important to the Uygur. They relish the opennessss and it is a part of their culture to "entertain" and have visitors and family around.

What they are offered by the Han, if they are lucky, is small units in multi-storeyed housing blocks. It is like caging a lion and the Uygur detest it. It literally is destroying the social and cultural fabric of their society and is claimed, by the Uygur and their supporters, that these forced house evictions and demolitions are but one of the many "tools" being used in Han policy with the objective of achiving the "cultural genocide" of the Uygur people.

These "small" incidences should not go unnoticed by the international community as they form part of a much wider picture of Han violations of the Human Rights of certain ethnic groups, the Uygurs in particular.

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