By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
BEIJING, China – Chinese authorities are reacting and trying to calm angered people threatened to be evicted from their homes. For decades now, China has engaged in heavy urban development, causing millions of citizens to relocate. Many are left homeless, sometimes with inadequate or no compensation as crews move in to decimate certain areas. In turn, some regions have implemented rules that are designed to curb abuses by developers and demolition crews which have been the cause of poverty, unrest and deaths.
The draft rules were issued by the state council, China’s cabinet, on January 29. The regulations aim to ban developers and demolition crews from forcing people out through violence or by shutting off their access to essentials such as water or electricity. They would also demand that compensation be set at market price and that where homes are judged “old and dangerous,” 90% of residents would have to agree to the specified project or development. The rules also require that demolitions would be halted if occupants brought lawsuits. These rules are far more interactive and cognizant to the needs of citizens, who at present, have no say thereby allowing developers to go ahead even when challenged.
Despite the named and codified grievances, critics warn of potential loopholes in the rules, and express concern hat enforcement will be difficult because it is at least as important as the changes on paper. Before these rules even entered draft form, academics declared practices by developers as a breach of the constitution. Professors from Peking University said that such unfair practices took place in both cities and the countryside, and that land could be seized in some circumstances.
One professors, Shen Kui, said,: “I’m basically satisfied; this is progress and there are some big changes.” He went on to state that he believed the rules, still in draft form, would take effect within months, and that “the regulations will decrease the new cases where you get violence, but of course it also depends on a change in attitude from local governments … Courts [also] need to be more independent when dealing with these cases.”
What is clear, is that after several highly publicized incidents of individuals setting themselves on fire, China is striving to respond to displacement and forced eviction by developers.
For more information please see:
BBC News – China outlines plans to outlaw forced evictions – January 30, 2010
Telegraph – China moves to calm unrest over property seizures – January 29, 2010
Financial Times – China shakes up rules on land seizures – January 29, 2010