(ENG) China to evict 1.5M for Olympics


Associated Press Writer
Wed Dec 5, 4:00 AM ET

China continues to evict 13,000 people each month in preparation for the Beijing Olympics, despite worldwide attention and increased scrutiny, a housing rights group said Wednesday.

The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions said a recent trip to the Chinese capital confirmed an estimate it made earlier this year that 1.5 million people would be displaced by the time the 2008 Games are held.

Beijing says the group is grossly inflating the number of people being relocated as a result of the Olympic preparations, and that residents are content with the compensation they have received.

“Despite courageous protests inside China, and condemnation by many international human rights organizations, the Beijing municipality and Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games have persisted with these evictions and displacements,” said Jean du Plessis, the Geneva-based COHRE’s deputy director.

The group – which claimed in June that 1.25 million had already been displaced – said it returned to Beijing in August and found that forced evictions were continuing unabated.

In September, the Beijing municipality demolished several buildings in a run-down neighborhood called the “petitioners’ village” in Fengtai District, which provided housing for thousands from all over China who came to complain to the central government about land seizures, forced evictions and corruption, COHRE said.

“Evictions in Beijing often involve the complete demolition of poor peoples’ houses,” the group said. “The inhabitants are then forced to relocate far from their communities and workplaces, with higher transportation costs driving them further into poverty.

“In Beijing, and in China more generally, the process of demolition and eviction is characterized by arbitrariness and lack of due process. In many cases, tenants are given little or no notice of their eviction and do not receive the promised compensation.”

The group said it was pleased the International Olympic Committee is taking housing rights more seriously, including guaranteed commitments that local people would not be displaced in its deal with Russia for the 2014 Winter Games, which will be hosted by the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

In August, the director of Beijing’s construction committee said only about 40,000 people were being relocated yearly, and about 2,000 were moved to build new venues for the games. Sui Zhenjiang also said residents were adequately compensated, adding that 16,000-17,000 “affordable” houses had been built in the city of 15 million.

“The 1.5 million figure is definitely wrong,” Sui said of COHRE’s estimation.

COHRE also criticized Myanmar and Slovakia on Thursday for “pervasive housing rights violations” in 2007.

It said Myanmar, also known as Burma, was responsible for the “mass displacement of more than 1 million civilians from their lands and homes.”

Slovakia was cited because “municipalities deliberately neglect to improve – or indeed actively strive to worsen – the housing conditions of Roma,” also known as Gypsies, said Claude Cahn, COHRE’s advocacy chief.

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