A human rights organization is accusing the Chinese government of widespread forced evictions along with other human rights violations during preparations for the Beijing Olympics. In a new report, the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions says 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes to make room for Olympic venues and city beautification schemes. Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva.
The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions says it is becoming normal practice for housing rights to be violated by countries hosting mega-events, such as the Olympics. But, it says the scale of displacement that is taking place in China is unprecedented.
The Center's Executive Director, Salih Booker, tells VOA from 1991 to 1999 China displaced an average of 70,000 people a year to make room for economic and urban development projects.
But during the period since Beijing was awarded the games, he says an average of 165,000 people have been displaced through evictions, demolition of houses and relocation to alternative housing.
He says the process was supposed to involve mediation and tenants were supposed to receive adequate compensation for their homes.
"The compensation rates were most frequently below market value," said Booker. "And, because of the corruption that also was encouraged by the process, by the time families actually received money, the original compensation amount had been reduced by middle men among the municipal authorities and construction companies. In cases where citizens absolutely refused, we have witnesses report forced evictions, often using violent techniques and harassment."
China has signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which protects the right to adequate housing. These rights also are protected under China's national law and constitution.
But Booker says there is no independent judiciary in the country and the judicial system is riddled with corruption. As a consequence, he says there is no legal redress for people who have been thrown out of their homes.
The Housing Rights Organization has harsh words for the International Olympic Committee, which it accuses of being an apologist for the Chinese Government. Booker says the International Olympic Committee has refused to take action against the government's human rights violations and massive displacement of its people.
"We are dismayed that the IOC President has suggested that as a result of the Beijing Olympics, the human rights situation in China has improved," he said. "We believe the evidence is completely to the contrary, particularly with regard to housing rights. So, we feel that it is appropriate to hold the IOC accountable for its role in not acknowledging these problems and not seeking to address them in the case of China."
The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions is calling for the International Olympic Committee to bring pressure on the Chinese government to ensure people who are inadequately compensated for being displaced have some form of redress.
The Organization is also demanding that China immediately halt demolitions and evictions.