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Geneva Group Shames China for Continuing Mass Evictions


In its drive to develop, China continues to evict thousands of people to make way for new shopping malls, Olympic venues, and other projects. An independent Geneva group known as the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions named China among this year's worst violators of housing rights.

Bulldozers clear away rubble as workers hammer away at a half-demolished apartment building in Beijing's fashionable San Li Tun district to make way for a huge shopping and entertainment complex.

Inside the wrecked building, amid the thumping and shaking caused by workers' sledge hammers, the last remaining resident, Li Jianhong, says he and his family have not left because they cannot afford to do so.

The 56-year-old unemployed construction worker complains of the noise, but says the developer has at least stopped sending workers to hammer on the walls of his home in the middle of the night to harass him the way they used to. He says the building used to shake as if there was an earthquake.

The government is offering Mr. Li compensation, an amount insufficient to buy a new apartment in the same neighborhood. He says he knows that, like his neighbors, he will soon have no choice but to move to a cramped apartment on the outskirts of the city 40 kilometers away.

Scott Leckie heads the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, a Geneva organization that this week named China among the world's top three housing rights violators for forcibly evicting 400,000 urban and rural residents.

"In the context of their urge to develop economically at lightning speed, China is quickly turning into a country of housing haves and housing have-nots," said Mr. Leckie.

Those evicted in China often complain the government offers inadequate compensation. Some take their grievances to state petition centers. However, Mr. Li says he sees no point in taking his case to the same officials who are forcing him out of his home. He says he has no recourse.

"Where can we complain? They are the courts, the police, and the district government. If we complain, it means we are against the government. We could present reasonable arguments, but in the end they just ignore us," he said.

The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions named Zimbabwe and the Indian state, Maharashtra, as the other two top housing rights violators. The center says the Zimbabwe government left 700,000 people homeless as part of an urban renewal campaign known as the "Drive Out Rubbish" campaign.

India's Maharashtra state was named for evicting hundreds of thousands of poor people in a bid to turn Bombay into what officials describe as a "world-class metropolis."

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