Stop violent demolitions

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-24 07:44
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Brutal and coercive demolitions are outright unacceptable. It is a serious violation of human rights and against the basic principles of law. These incidents are even more intolerable amid public indignation that has challenged the State Council's regulations on demolition.

In an incident early Monday morning, 200 people armed with sticks and knives clashed with artists in Changdian village of suburban Beijing's Chaoyang district during a forceful demolition of an arts center. Eight artists were injured, including a Japanese person, in the clash. The artists in turn launched a protest against the barbarous demolition that afternoon.

The arts center was established in 2008. More than 100 artists from the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, as well as other countries rented houses from local villagers to create artworks and install galleries. Many of them have invested a lot of money in their studios and galleries.

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In regards to this arts center, a collective of villagers were the owners of the land. Occupation of the land for business purposes should have had the consent of all villagers. We don't yet know if the local villagers collectively agreed to the demolition. But the fact that they signed contracts with the artists to let them use their houses for 20 or 30 years point to the impossibility that the villagers would go against the contracts. Another reason is that the artists brought the villagers stable income and prosperity through rent payments.

A village committee head and a township leader reportedly rushed to the arts center and promised that an investigation into the demolition would be conducted.

But how could the demolition crew be so brazen that they could even think of using force to drive away the tenants of the arts center? They should have been arrested as criminals for the violation of human rights and for causing harm to public security in a dangerous fashion. It hasn't been reported whether the crew has been detained.

Collaboration between real estate developers and local governments is well known as a root cause for forceful demolitions. Real estate developers can hardly acquire the land they need unless they have close connections with local governments, also one of the biggest beneficiaries in the real estate boom.

There has been no report to identify the real estate developer behind this case. And neither is there any information that the developer had any support from the government.

No matter how long it will take for a thorough investigation to reveal the entire story behind this violent demolition, the illegitimacy of violent demolitions by real estate developers is beyond doubt.

The new regulations under discussion will draw a line between requisition of land by the government for public interest and the occupation of land by real estate developers for commercial housing projects.

Different measures will be made for evacuation. But it will take quite some time before the amended regulations are adopted and made into effect.

What is urgent are the efforts by local law enforcers to stop real estate developers from forcing residents to move by the use of force and violence. It is shameful that a local government can allow developers to have their own way.