09/05/2007, 00.00
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Arrested for preferring Human Rights to the Olympics

An activist collected over 10 thousand signatures from farmers in an open letter which says: “we need human rights, not the Olympics”. He has been detained for over two months considered subversive. For years he has helped farmers obtain compensation for expropriated lands: a problem which, the government admits, remains unresolved.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Yang Chunlin gathered over 10 thousand signatures from farmers in the Northern province of Heilongjiang, and published them with an open letter entitled: “We need Human Rights, not the Olympics.  He was formally arrested on suspicion of subverting state power on August 3, said the China Human Rights Defenders, an international network of activists and rights monitoring groups. Police claim he was suspected of taking money from “anti-China” organisations abroad, it said, without giving details.

The case against Yang points “to the nervousness and political sensitivity with which the government views efforts to link the Olympics and human rights,” says the NGO. Yang is well known and respected by farmers in Heilongjiang for his work to help them receive compensation for expropriated lands.

Property disputes and illegal land grabs have accelerated as China’s economy expands at double-digit rates and farmland is gobbled up for industrial parks and skyscrapers, a government report has revealed. In August 2006 the ministry for land and resources urged local officials and industries to compensate farmers with new land allocations of an identical dimension and quality to the land taken.


Pan Mingcai, head of the ministry's arable land protection department, said that from investigations carried out between January and June 2007, it had emerged that the quality of land offered in compensation was “poor”, difficult to cultivate and in some cases “even wild”.  Some local governments have not given land out or have pocketed compensation payments.  Even for the Olympics, activists accuse – over one million people were thrown off their lands to allow for sports buildings and infrastructure.


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