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Villagers Threatened in Forced Land Expropriation

April 24, 2006

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received reports that officials have colluded with developers in Jinjiang City, Fujian Province to forcibly repossess prime farm land and a gravesite for the construction of a power station.

Sources in China told HRIC that the controversy began this past February, when local officials in Jinjiang’s Longhu Township began issuing eviction notices to villagers without providing for any public meeting or consultation. The notices stated that villagers would receive 25,000 yuan per mu of land for 30 mu to be repossessed for construction of a new power station. The villagers, who believed that more than 30 mu would ultimately be repossessed, objected to prime farmland being used for this purpose. For that reason, almost none of the affected villagers agreed to sell off their rights to the land. Local officials then approached the villagers again with promises of higher compensation, but the villagers firmly refused to negotiate. Sources say that at this time, township officials deployed construction officials to forcibly take possession of the land under threat of bodily harm to the villagers.

Sources told HRIC that on March 22, one of the villagers telephoned two brothers surnamed Shi, who years ago had immigrated to the Philippines and Hong Kong, and told them that their grandmother’s gravesite, for which they had paid 4,000 yuan in the 1990s, was being reclaimed for the power station for a compensation of 200 yuan. The brothers immediately contacted the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines to request that embassy officials investigate the matter, and to ask the Chinese government to protect the property rights of its overseas citizens. However, the brothers received no reply from the embassy, and on March 29 they learned that developers had already cut down several trees that were considered an important element in the feng shui of their grandmother’s grave.

HRIC is concerned that villagers of Longhu Township are at risk of losing their economic livelihoods without access to any viable remedy. HRIC is also concerned that this expropriation threatens the desecration of a grave. Incidents of forced land expropriation by local officials, made possible only under duress or threats or violence and without adequate compensation to villagers directly impacted, are on the rise across China. HRIC calls for land rights protections of rural citizens to be strengthened and implemented under Chinese law, including aligning compensation standards to the fair market value of land and securing procedural protections for farmers.