There has been a sharp rise in forced evictions in China by local authorities who seize and then sell off land to offset their debts to state-run banks, a new report from a global rights watchdog said Friday.
According to the report, millions have been affected by the evictions following dodgy deals between local governments and property deals.
Local governments borrowed huge sums from state banks to finance stimulus projects and now rely on land sales to cover the payments, the report said.
And it’s hazardous to protest the evictions: the incidents have in deaths, beatings, harassment and imprisonment of residents who have been forced from their homes across the country in both rural and urban areas.
The report said that forced evictions, or the removal against their will of individuals, families or communities from the homes or the land they occupy without access to legal or other protections, are banned under international law.
In a new 85-page report, Standing Their Ground, London-based Amnesty International highlights how forced evictions - a longstanding cause of discontent within China - have increased significantly in the past two years in order to clear the way for developments.
The rights group interviewed lawyers, housing rights activists and academics for the report.
The group collected reports of 41 cases of self-immolation from 2009 – 2011 alone due to forced evictions; only 10 cases were reported in the last decade.
The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), claimed the report, continues to promote “local officials who deliver economic growth, regardless as to how it is achieved. Land re-development, at whatever cost – whether for new roads, factories or residential complexes – is seen as the most direct path to visible results.”
“The Chinese authorities must immediately halt all forced evictions. There needs to be an end to the political incentives, tax gains and career advancements that encourage local officials to continue with such illegal practices,” said Nicola Duckworth, senior director of research at AI.
One violent example occurred in April last year when a few hundred men entered Lichang village in Jiangsu Province and attacked farmers to force them off their land. About 20 women from the village were dragged away and beaten.
In June the same year, police in Wenchang city, Sichuan province even took custody of a 20-month old baby and refused to return him until his mother signed an eviction order.
People who stage resistance to forced evictions often end up in jail or in Re-education Through Labour (RTL) Centres.
“The lack of independence in Chinese courts means those that seek to challenge an eviction or seek redress have little hope of gaining justice. Lawyers are also reluctant to take on such clients for fear of the repercussions…With no access to justice some have turned to violence or even self-immolation as a last resort,” the report said.