Friday, 12 October 2012


It can be argued that in the end with people that it comes down to land, who lives on it, who owns it, what we do with it and what other people want to do with it. The issue of land tenure, land rights and land use is set to become one of the dominant issues of this century. This is an important issue that affects people in both the developed and the developing world as local people and local resources (including land) come under increased pressure from various levels of Government for development.

Forced evictions
An Amnesty International report states that forced evictions in China have risen significantly in recent years as local communist party officials sell off land to property developers, out from under the people living on it.  Amnesty International reports that many cases involve violence and harassment, and amount to “a gross violation of human rights". Local officials are under pressure to meet economic goals and vested interests are behind the coercion, the report noted.

The problem of security of tenure for farmers and local people is made worse by the fact that all land in the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) is effectively controlled by the state, and laws allow local governments to claim land for urban development projects. The on-going evictions are a serious cause of ongoing social discontent and resulted in public protests across the country. Communist Party local authorities are seizing and selling off land to pay back funds borrowed to finance stimulus packages during the economic downturn.

The PRC Communist Government promotes officials who deliver growth regardless of the cost, and the development of roads, factories, residential complexes on seized lands delivers visible results. Amnesty International has reported that the system is open to abuse and evictees often received little notice, no consultation and barely a fraction of the value of their land and homes in compensation.

There have been a number of violent clashes between local people and police or private security guards across different areas of China.  Amnesty International has interviewed lawyers, housing rights activists and academics, in and outside China. Standing Their Ground (an 85-page report) has looked at 40 cases of forced eviction (between January 2009 to January 2012), nine of which it said resulted in the deaths of people who were resisting being evicted.

Peoples resistance in Wukan
There have been some successful localised resistance to some of the evictions, Amnesty notes the example of Wukan village (in Guangdong province in 2011), here local residents demonstrated on the streets after a village negotiator protesting against local officials over a land grab died in police custody.

The protests resulted in the removal of two local Communist Party officials and the punishment of others in 2012. Local villagers also won the right to fresh local elections as part of the deal.

Amnesty suggests that any optimism in relation to the Wukan case may be premature might be premature, as so far there has been no independent investigation into the death of Xue Jinbo ( the village negotiator). Also villagers have still not got any of their land back. There are also reports that Communist authorities are harassing and spying on local activists in Wukan. The Communist Dictatorship does nominally have laws in place to protect farmers and local residents, but these are often ignored by Communist Party officials at local level.

Communist Party Leaders in Beijing have acknowledged the problem exists and are pledged to improve the situation. Amnesty International has called on the PRC to put an immediate stop to all forced evictions and ensure safeguards were put in place in line with international law. Amnesty also has urged the PRC to implement new regulations (that it adopted in 2011) which should provide for proper land compensation and outlaw the use of violence in these cases.

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