11/08/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Prison and torture in Shanghai for anyone who opposes forced evictions and demolitions

Local authorities in the Chinese metropolis are stealing homes and land from residents to build luxury hotels and shopping malls ahead of the 2010 World Expo. Opponents are arrested, jailed and subjected to physical and psychological abuses.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) – Shanghai residents are increasingly victims of police intimidation, including arbitrary arrest, physical and psychological abuse and even torture for protesting and organising petition drives against local authorities over housing disputes that involve forced evictions and demolitions of homes, this according to Human Rights in China, a New York-based organisation that monitors human rights in China.

The latest case brought to public attention involves 15 people who submitted petitions to the central government to protest against their forced eviction and the demolition of their homes.

Police in China's economic capital arrested three of them—Du Yangming, Wang Shuizhen and Tian Baocheng—on charges of "causing a disturbance" during a meeting of Chinese and Central Asian leaders in June. In detention they were beaten and subjected to other forms of physical abuse and forced to accept court-appointed attorneys for their trial, which begins today. And their lawyers have refused to meet with their family members or show them copies of the indictments. The authorities have also refused them the right to meet their relatives whilst in prison.

Disputes between residents and the local government have been increasing since 2002, when Shanghai was awarded World Expo 2010. Since then local authorities have been forcibly expropriating properties to build luxury flats, shopping malls and hotels for future tourists.

Officials have forced owners to accept housing in suburban areas and "convinced" them not to protest with threats, that is, unless they agreed not to complain they would not get the promised suburban flat.

According to the World Expo organising authority some five square kilometres have been made available for the world fair. Three quarter of the land is in Pudong District which until recently was home to 10,765 families

Xu Zhengqing, a local activist involved in the fight evictions and demolitions, was sentenced last year to three years in prison for causing fights. In fact, his real crime was going to Beijing in early 2005 to file a complaint against the forced relocation of local residents.

Song Shitai, who organised a campaign against the forced eviction of Pudong residents, was for his part brutally attacked in public and evicted without compensation for representing 600 families opposed to expropriations.

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