The storefront of a suburban Shanghai gallery has a sign on its doorway: “Corrupt Officials and Dogs Not Admitted.” When a photo of the sign was posted on the Internet, it was vandalized with spray paint.
Zhoupu Gallery is located across the street from the Zhoupu Township Office of Nanhui District. The gallery owner, Ms. Cao Tianfeng, said she was forcibly evicted, and her four-story house was demolished on July 2, 2009. The sign is her silent protest.
Ms. Cao said that local government officials, including the director of the District Land Bureau, Zhu Xuejun, first lead a gang to ransack her home. They took her collection of antiques and paintings worth approximately 0.1 billion yuan (US$1.6 million) and then leveled her house to the ground. During the whole process, she said, the police were at the scene to protect the gang. Now the land is being used to build houses for high-ranking government officials.
The Epoch Times covered Ms. Cao's story on July 8, 2009. Ms. Cao declared that she quit the Chinese Communist Party using her real name and asked for moral and legal support. She said she didn't take any legal action after her eviction, as she had completely lost her trust in the government. Instead, she turned to the media for exposure [of the incident].
In addition to the sign on her front door, Ms. Cao posted pictures and banners of the forced eviction in her storefront window.
The first Internet posting about Ms. Cao’s sign and the story of her eviction appeared on April 10 and has been republished on a number of Chinese blogs and websites.
A reader reported to Aboluowang, a popular overseas Chinese website, that he witnessed the gallery storefront being spray painted by a couple of masked men while he was stopping by the gallery to check out the sign. He videotaped the vandals and posted the video online.
Efforts by The Epoch Times to reach Ms. Cao before the publication deadline were unsuccessful. Ms. Cao had told The Epoch Times previously that her phone was being monitored.
Ordinary people being forced to give up their homes and land for infrastructure or luxury developments is commonplace in China, spawning widespread anger and protests. According to a recent Reuters report, 12.5 million people have been moved due to dam construction since 1949. Forced relocations have become a source of “festering unrest,” especially because of the inadequate compensations generally given to the landowners.
The report also said that in Shanghai around 70 percent to 80 percent of petitions to high officials about perceived injustices in 2009 involved forced evictions in preparation for the World Expo.
Asia News reported that in order to prepare for the Shanghai Expo, authorities have seized buildings and land, removed “undesirables” who lost their jobs, and imposed new and tighter censorship rules on media.
Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders said authorities have been detaining and harassing activists in the weeks before the Expo and had sent six people to labor camps, some of whom became activists after their Shanghai homes were demolished to make way for the event.