Hangzhou Residents, Facing Eviction, Successfully Protest for Official Apology
Taking to the streets against forced evictions, residents in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China achieved a rare victory by forcing the regime’s local cadres to apologize.
The conflict was triggered on the afternoon of April 9 in the Baijingfang, Xiacheng district when staff members of the Hangzhou Urban Management Bureau (also known as chengguan) came to remove posters and banners which had been publicly posted by local residents in protest of forced relocation.
Madame Yan, a local resident, told The Epoch Times that the conflict could be traced back to October 2009 when the relocation department posted notices that they would evict residents from the area. Local residents believe the evictions are illegal and applied for an administrative review, and the decision is pending.
As forced relocation is very common in China, and residents are often the victims of government-backed violence, local residents felt threatened and responded by covering the official notices with their own posters and banners, thus triggering a poster war between the two sides. Tensions were escalating.
Yan commented on how the local residents were quite angry about the chengguans' “clean up:” “Residents say the regime has TV stations, newspapers, and other media to promote their agenda, but they can only express their grievances on the wall.”
Remark Angers Residents
Hundreds gathered around when the chengguans and eviction officials again came to remove posters on April 9. A resident made a remark when an officer removed a poster with the story of Ms. Tang Fuzhen who had set herself on fire in protest of forced relocation in 2009. A female relocation officer surnamed Yao responded, “You can follow her example.” Angry residents demanded an apology. Yao refused and hid herself among other relocation staff and chengguan.
Subsequently, as more and more people gathered, police were enlisted to maintain order and escort Yao from the scene. In the process, police used violence against the protesters. A 62-year-old woman, Madam Zhao, was pushed to the ground by police. She suffered a heart attack on the spot and had to be hospitalized.
Police denied pushing her despite testimonials by four eyewitnesses, while others recorded the badge numbers of the two officers.
Angry residents and over a hundred supporters marched to the hospital to visit Madam Zhao that evening. They learned that neighborhood police had already been to the hospital to threaten her, warning her to be silent about her ordeal.
The protesters marched directly to the provincial government building, demanding to meet with provincial-level cadres. They asked for three things: a public apology from Yao, penalties for the police who used violence, and compensation for Madam Zhao and other injured residents. Police, armed police, and security guards were dispatched to the scene.
The protest ended early on April 10 after Xiacheng district governor and the head of the relocation department came to the scene. They apologized and promised to investigate police violence.
Chinese writer Mr. Fu Guoyong followed this eviction case closely. He told The Epoch Times that he does not feel optimistic about the residents' administrative review application despite the wealth of evidence regarding the government's illegal activities. The regime controls all the administrative resources, he said, and lawyers in Hangzhou will be pressured not to take the case.
Nonetheless, the residents feel it is not a matter of winning or losing, but a matter of justice and distinguishing right from wrong, Fu added.