UN Official Taken into Custody in China, say Reports

August 22, 2009 Updated: August 22, 2009

A UN official and those accompanying him were taken into police custody in Jianggan District of Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province on the morning of Aug. 20, according to several Chinese media reports.

The convener for the United Nations Advisory Group on Forced Evictions, Yves Cabannes, went to the Hangzhou East Rail Station construction area after an international conference in the same city. With him were Eva Pils, an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law, and either two or three Hong Kong university students—Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported two students while Voice of America (VOA) reported three, in their Chinese reports.

The group was investigating reports that more than 20 people were forced out of their homes in the area. The alleged evictees were reported to have been petitioning and protesting since evictions and demolition began, and said they were beaten for their trouble.

There are conflicting reports about how police handled the incident. RFA reported that the group was held in police custody until late in the afternoon, while VOA reported staff at the Hangzhou Foreign Affairs Office saying that the whole procedure was less than two or three hours.

“All of what we did followed proper procedure,” said an unidentified staff member of the Foreign Affairs Office, according to VOA. “The police officers just saw a few foreign individuals taking photos and went ahead to question them and asked for their ID. According to our Documents Management Act, this is a necessary procedure.

“One of them was without ID and two others refused to show their IDs. According to our law, they were obligated to display their IDs to police—this is the norm inside and outside of China. Therefore, the police officers asked them to go to the local police station to explain and show their IDs,” VOA reported the staff member saying.

In a statement sent to VOA from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Pils said that she was travelling with a foreign professor who had left his passport in his hotel, and that he was taken to the local police station to be identified. Pils accompanied him to the police station, and she said the problem was solved as soon as he was identified, according to the VOA report.

Part of the statement attributed to Pils contradicted earlier parts of the report, however, as she said that no students were with them.

The Hangzhou municipal government has been accused of collaborating with developers, and using the expansion of the East Railway Station as an excuse for grabbing land, according to the VOA report.

Read the original Chinese article.