Forced Eviction Victims in China: We Want a Home
Victims of forced eviction in Beijing, Shanghai, and other areas in China expressed their grievances on World Habitat Day. They went on protest walks and talked about their experiences of forced government demolition and eviction.
Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was crowded with people during the weeklong Chinese National Day holiday. But some came instead to observe World Habitat Day designated by the United Nations for the first Monday of October every year.
Former Beijing human rights attorney, Ni Yulan, told Voice of America (VOA) that she and many other people went to Tiananmen Square to stage a protest walk, and that they were closely followed by police.
“The purpose of our walk was to protest the illegal demolition and illegal confiscation of personal property. As ordinary Chinese citizens, all we are asking for is a shelter, so we can live a normal, simple, and undisturbed life,” Ni said.
Ni was forced by authorities to vacate her home during the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Ni said when she protested the eviction, she was arrested and sexually molested by police and other officials. Later she was sentenced to two years in prison on grounds of “interfering with public order.” While in prison, she was severely tortured, making her permanently disabled. In addition, her license to practice law was revoked. Ni is now a homeless petitioner, confined to a wheel chair.
Ni was released from prison on April 14. In June, when the Southern People Weekly published an exclusive interview with her, authorities immediately had the article deleted from the website, and the Central Propaganda Department threatened the magazine with an investigation. By that time the news had already been widely circulated by bloggers and aroused public sentiment.
Ni’s husband, Dong Jiqin told Sound of Hope Radio: “World Habitat Day advocates a home for everybody. The government, and corrupt government officials, have no right to take our homes away from us. Didn’t the government say that the right to live is the primary right? We do not have a home to live in. Therefore, we have been deprived of our right to live.”
Dong has initiated an arts event called, “I Want a Home” which consists of a photo collection from forced demolition victims.
Dong said in another interview with VOA: “There are many people whose homes were forcefully demolished. Many protested by setting themselves on fire, throwing Molotov cocktails, or lying under the bulldozers. People have been using all sorts of ways to protest the illegal, forced demolition. That is why I started the ‘I Want a Home’ photo collection.”
Some people sent photos showing themselves in front of the ruins of their former homes, holding a piece of broken tile in their hands, a symbol of their defeat and painful loss.
Among the protest walkers was a woman named Wang Yuqin. Her husband had recently been released from prison after a two-year term for splashing sulfuric acid on the demolition team.
In Shanghai, people walked outside the Municipal Bureau of Housing Support. Police dispatched vehicles and blocked the public from getting close to the building.
In Zhejiang Province a group of about two dozen victims of forced demolition went to the provincial government building to appeal. They were stopped by police, and one person was arrested.
A woman by the last name of Zhu, who used to live in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, told Radio Free Asia that several dozen families in her district were evicted during one week in September. She said that everyone who participated in the walk is homeless.
“Now those corrupt officials are celebrating National Day, but we are homeless. What can we do about it? Today’s protest made us feel that at least some people care about us,” Zhu said.
The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. It is meant for people to reflect on the state of their towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter.
Read the original Chinese article.