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Violence and Harassment in Xi’an Clearance

April 4, 2005

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that a National People’s Congress delegate, Ma Wenbao, is suffering official harassment after speaking out on behalf of Xi’an residents brutalized in a forced relocation scheme.

Sources in China told HRIC that local officials mobilized a municipal and civilian force that included members of organized crime rings to carry out a forced clearance in the city’s Lianhu District around 11 a.m. on March 30. According to HRIC’s sources, Lianhu District Clearance Office director Yao Xiaoling and vice-director Ma Long headed the group of more than 120 clearance workers, armed with knives and clubs and accompanied by earth movers, who destroyed more than 30 homes in the district’s Beimadao Lane, including those of Hu Kunfang, Li Guoqing and Jia Lijun. The clearance team reportedly threatened violence against any who dared to oppose them, and when some residents did offer resistance, they were severely beaten.

According to HRIC’s sources, among the most seriously injured was Chen Chao, who was slashed in the thigh and back by clearance workers who barged into his home. Chen’s nephew, Wen Mingliang, also suffered knife wounds while trying to assist him. Chen’s handicapped wife ended up with a bone fracture, and his elderly father-in-law was also seriously injured.

Sources say 73-year-old Jia Baoyu had to be taken to the hospital and put on a respirator after being knocked to the ground and clubbed in the kidneys by clearance workers. A young onlooker, Liu Jun, who blamed the workers for beating the old man, was likewise assaulted, and ended up in the hospital with 11 stitches in his skull. According to HRIC’s sources, at least 11 people remain hospitalized as a result of the clearance operation violence.

Residents called the police emergency hotline for assistance during the operation, but after two hours no police had turned up. They then telephoned the local media, only to be told that the media had been instructed from “higher up” not to take notice of any incidents occuring in that district. Finally around 2 p.m., more than 200 residents of the clearance district, accompanied by hundreds of onlookers, marched in protest to the Xi’an Municipal Government offices.

Sources told HRIC that the incident was the result of plans to widen Beimadao Lane. Local residents rejected compensation of only 1,500 yuan per square meter, which was barely more than half of the minimum of 2,700 yuan per square meter offered to residents displaced by clearances elsewhere in the city. Many of the residents not only lived in their homes, but also earned their livelihoods from small shops and businesses they operated there, and they were offered no compensation for their loss of income.

According to HRIC’s sources, the violent clearance operation raised considerable controversy within the city. A local NPC delegate, Ma Wenbao, publicly took up the cause of the displaced residents, saying that their treatment contravened China’s international and domestic humanitarian and human rights obligations. Ma also called for action to be taken against Yao Xiaoling and Ma Long for utilizing organized crime figures in the clearance. Sources say Ma Wenbao’s outspokenness offended Lianhu District’s party secretary general and district head, and as a result, Ma is now under close surveillance, and his phone calls are being monitored.

“The Chinese government has said on three separate occasions now that it would crack down on violence in clearance operations,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “This horrific case presents a perfect opportunity for the central authorities to demonstrate the sincerity of their resolve by stepping in and taking action against the perpetrators of this violence and the officials who organized it.”

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