Demolished: Forced Evictions And The Tenants’ Rights Movement In China


Source: Human Rights Watch, March 2004, Vol. 16, No. 4

This report of Human Rights Watch, based largely on published Chinese-language sourcesincluding press accounts, Internet discussions, expert commentary, and government laws, regulations, and statementsdetails the problems many Chinese citizens face as they are evicted from their homes, sometimes violently, by state and private actors. Many of these forced evictions violate basic human rights protections in both Chinese and international law. The report also provides an overview of current eviction and demolition practices in Chinas cities, the regulations governing such practices, and the parties involved. Ittraces the emergence over the past several years of a vibrant tenants rights movement and the governments recent crackdown on some of the leading figures.

The issue of forced evictions in China has begun to receive attention in official circles, and has even prompted a constitutional amendment, but significant hurdles remain. If the deficiencies in implementation of laws are not remedied and rights of evictees not upheld, eviction practices can be expected to serve as a continuing source of high profile social unrest and at times extreme forms of protest. In Beijing, the clearing of new sites for Olympics venues likely will continue to be a flashpoint.

To some extent, the scope of the evictions and of protests against them detailed in this report are inevitable byproducts of Chinas unconstrained development and the eagerness of many local officials for rapid modernization. In many cities, new high-end residential communities, shopping malls, and golf courses are replacing the stone houses, courtyards, and hutong (alleys) that characterized old China. After surviving long winters in unheated, drafty older buildings, many of which lack indoor plumbing, some urban residents now enjoy new and comfortable apartments. Many people in China express pride in their countrys rapid modernization, even while others mourn the loss of the countrys traditional architecture.

Read the report [PDF, 415Kb]