Underbelly of Shanghai Expo Exposed Outside UN

May 9, 2010 Updated: May 9, 2010

NEW YORK—According to official Chinese sources, tens of billions of yuan (several billion U.S. dollars) were spent demolishing 18,000 houses and relocating their residents in preparation for the Shanghai Expo. A group of Chinese dissidents that gathered outside the U.N. headquarters in New York City on Friday said that many residents who were supposed to receive compensation never did, and the demolitions were more like a giant land grab meant to enrich the local government.

“This wasn’t just for the expo, but it had another purpose,” said Hu Yan, who has come to New York to petition for one month outside the U.N. regarding the demolition of her home.

The land claimed for the expo will be redeveloped into high-rise apartments in about six months, with the profits going directly into the coffers of the local branch of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to Ms. Hu and experts on the subject.

Ms. Hu, whose family is still in China, was warned by the public security officials not to complain about her treatment to the media. Those who didn’t manage to get out of China were detained for the period of the exhibition to “maintain social stability.”

Ms. Hu said that most of the people forced to relocate accepted the money and chose not to resist, while most of those who resisted were arrested.

Party officials initially said they would pay Ms. Hu's family approximately 1,850 yuan per square meter (10.76 square feet) for their demolished residence—a price below market levels. They never received compensation, and their house, owned by the family for several generations through more than 100 years, was bulldozed on Dec. 29, 2005.

Ms. Hu fared somewhat better than many others who had attempted to stop the juggernaut of demolition. The group displayed photograph collages of the bloodied faces of victims who were beaten for trying to prevent their houses from being demolished.

Hu Ping, editor-in-chief of Beijing Spring, a Chinese dissident journal, expressed his support.

“Through gathering here today we not only express support for Hu Yan, but for everyone who opposes violent forced evictions. At the same time, we also want to get this news out to the world,” he said.

For some of the high-profile participants, the incidents of forced eviction were nothing but confirmation that CCP's rule goes hand in hand with deep and systematized iniquities.

Professor of Brown University and China’s Godfather of Dissent Xu Wenli argued that, “The key issue is ending the autocratic rule of the Chinese Communist Party, returning democracy to the people, returning land and residence to the people, and giving them their rights. This is the key, and only through this will China’s prospects be bright.”

Professor Yang Jianli, head of the Initiatives for China, which has shown continued support for Ms. Hu, said that understanding the true China helps both China’s ordinary citizens and the world as a whole.

“If you take a phony China as the basis for your policymaking, you’re definitely making a mistake. If this government doesn’t respect its own people, then it’s not going to be any better toward other countries or the people of other countries,” he said.

This was one of the messages the group wanted to get across at the event, Yang said. China as it is ruled now, he said “will definitely bring harm to the world.”

Ms. Yan said: “Even though being here is hard for me, I feel that I have a lot more hope than the petitioners in China. Because honestly, how many minutes do you think a petitioner in China would be able to stand on Tiananmen Square, or near Zhongnanhai [the compound where the leaders of the Communist Party live and work]. It’s impossible. That I can mount a month-long protest at the U.N. headquarters, not getting harassed at all, this brings me hope.”