11/17/2004, 00.00
CHINA
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Eviction law no protection for Beijing neighbourhood

Beijing (AsiaNews/Afp) – A woman was injured when at least 100 police officers started forcefully evicting families in east Beijing yesterday despite new laws protecting private property.

Police surrounded three one-storey brick homes in the old neighbourhood of Nanyingfang in Chaoyang district in the morning as the unwilling homeowners' possessions were piled into vans.

One middle-aged woman was brought out of one home covered in blood and taken to a hospital. Neighbours said she had been beaten with a brick during a scuffle with one of dozens of guards assisting the police. Several residents from another home were dragged out and shoved into a police van.

Police used fire extinguishers on a large crowd of onlookers whose homes are also facing demolition this week. Journalists were ordered not to take pictures and to leave the site.

"What laws? The Chinese government's words are all meaningless, all lies," said one resident facing imminent eviction. Another woman said: "It was all over the newspapers, that officials cannot carry out demolitions as they wish, but if they want to, what power do we have to stop them?"

As they spoke, two bulldozers knocked down the wall of one home, where someone had scribbled in large black characters: "Forceful demolition and evictions violate and are forbidden by the national constitution. Uphold the constitution. Fight for rights."

More than 1,000 households live in the neighbourhood, where homes served as barracks for Qing dynasty (1644-1911) soldiers who guarded the Chaoyangmen gate. Unlike most buildings being demolished in Beijing, Nanyingfang's residents own their homes, bought after the Qing dynasty's fall and passed down the generations.

Under the constitution, amended in March to protect private assets for the first time, residents have the right to negotiate fair compensation before moving.

The central government this year also ordered local governments not to carry out "chaotic", unreasonable requisition of land.

But none of that mattered yesterday, with the Chaoyang district government intent on making way for a developer to build what is believed will be a shopping district.

"We are not against demolitions, but they should give us a fair price for our land," said one woman. "With the price they are giving us, we can't even afford to buy a home in the outskirts of Beijing. Our kids won't be able to go to school in central Beijing." About 4,000 to 6,000 yuan per square metres is being offered as compensation, which residents say is below market price.

Officials could not be reached for comment.

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