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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.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Forced Evictions Continue For Uygur In Xinjiang

Forced Evictions in China. An Uygur outside a demolished homeIn a country where all the land and housing has been owned by the state and where official corruption is rife, home and land tenure has never been a given in China.

A recent report out of Xinjiang, China's nominal "Uygur Autonomous Region", via Radio Free Asia once again illustrates that, in this time of China's burgeoning economy and despite recent amendments to the Chinese constitution allowing for private ownership of property, land tenure is not guaranteed even when you have a written lease.

According to the linked RFA article

"Authorities in the Uyghur region of Xinjiang in China's northwest are refusing to honor 30-year land-use contracts in a village near Artush city, forcing poor farmers away from their livelihoods to make way for a major property development"-RFA

It would appear that the local Artush county government had signed a deal with a Beijing company for the construction of a tourist resort on the outskirts of town. The problem being however is that the land is farmland over which the Uygur tenants had a written lease for a term of 30 years.

The total area of disputed land is about 700 mu (46 hectares), which includes the farmers' houses, fruit and vegetable gardens, and croplands in Shurukh village, which is home to around 180 Uyghur households.

In compensation the Uygurs believed the original offer of compensation from the local government was the equivalent of US$8,700 and 1 mu of undeveloped land for each mu of tenented land forfeited.

After some farmhouses had been demolished the farmers came to the realisation that the compensation offered was for 1 mu of undeveloped land and only US$1,450 cash and it was at this stage they began their protest.

RFA claims that one Uygur was beaten by police and had his camera broken when he attempted to take pictures of his house being demolished.

"He was beaten pushed and beaten when he was trying to record ( the house demolition) He threw the camera to the other side of garden. And they jumped over and got the camera. Then they smashed it one witness was reported to have said."-RFA

Forced evictions are commonplace in a land where the new market economy has led many local officials into the pockets of hungry land developers. Whilst, not the reason in every case, corruption plays a large part in the decision making process.

In a submission to the recently concluded UN Human Rights Commission hearings in Geneva UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation) stated

"China's rapid economic development has led to forced evictions in urban and rural areas. Residents complain of lack of advance notice, low compensation, and violent evictions by hired thugs and bulldozers. Chinese laws permit forced evictions to continue even while residents are suing to prevent them; many courts refuse to hear the cases. Protests have escalated, and there has been a series of suicide protests. In response, police have jailed tenants’ rights advocates. The Chinese government has promised policy reforms, but while local Party officials can intervene to influence courts, these will be difficult to implement."-UNPO Submission

The Epoch Times reported only on March 10 of this year the death of an elderly Uygur man in Kashgar killed when a bulldozer leveled his house whilst he was inside attempting to stop it's demolition.

Much of this activity goes unreported in Xinjiang as many Uygurs fear government retribution if they attempt to protest or advertise their plight.

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Radio Free Asia