The villagers of the area in Shangqiu district have been facing huge demolition drive from local municipal authorities, without any adequate compensation and alternate homes for their livelihood. The displaced persons condition has worsened with the onset of winter and the poor farmers are left in the open to fend for themselves.
The local government authorities’ in the district states that they have been following the orders of their seniors and evacuated villagers by demolishing their homes. This demolition drive is in contravention to China’s stated national policy to build relocation houses before carrying out any demolition. The authorities also need to suitably compensate residents on the basis of prevailing market price or build relocation houses at the cost of local government before initiating any demolition. The residents, who have been objecting to the demolition drive, have been brutally beaten and left on the site by the authorities without providing any medical aid to these poor farmers.
The farmers have approached local municipal authorities with their grievances, but have been turned down by authorities stating that the local council has been struggling to get funds from the authorities and are in debt, therefore, no compensation or monetary assistance would be handed over to them.
As per Financial Times report dated April 23, 2019, Beijing has the mission to redevelop China’s shanty towns by 2020. In this process, more than 24 million properties have been demolished since 2015. Local governments have borrowed from State-run banks to fund renovation. These loans are generally at very low interest rates with repayment period up to 25 years. The authorities can generate revenue from the new projects by allowing converting housing projects to commercial ones. The authorities, thus, earned profit from this conversion and were required to compensate poor farmers/residents, but no farmer till date got compensation.
But in the latest scenario, some of the farmers own new houses or are in very good condition. The villagers in the area are protesting as they have not been given any notices or choices for relocation, but were simply thrown out without any compensation or house. One local authority, on the condition of anonymity, revealed that they have been asked to provide no cash compensation to poor villagers. They are being coerced to sign agreements to evict their houses, and those who objected were beaten mercilessly in front of their families, until they were seriously injured.
In a recent incident, on hearing the news of commencement of demolition drive, several farmers of the Shangqiu area gathered outside local municipal government office to demand withdrawal of officials from their land. Authorities initially threatened them but when crowd started swelling, they detained farmers on fraudulent charges.
Some farmers of the area were offered very low compensation price for their houses, equivalent to US$ 100 per sq. meter for land whose prevailing market rate is around US$ 700.
The plight of the farmers is not allowed to be covered by any activist or news agency. If any activist tried to showcase legal right of the villagers and tries to defend them, even online, their handles were blocked and reprimanded by the local government authorities to not to repeat in future.
This Chinese censorship has been echoed in a recent report by a Washington-based non-profit organization, ‘Freedom House’, which carried out a survey of 65 countries, among which China ranked the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom for fourth consecutive year. This Human Rights organization also stated that China’s censorship had reached “unprecedented extremes” this year, and the internet in the country was least free of all surveyed nations.
Of late China has broadened its censorship of social media and expanded government oversight of Chinese technology companies, information about politically sensitive events. The report accused that Beijing had clamped down further on avenues for digital mobilisation and activism by increasingly shuttering individual accounts posting “harmful” content on the social media platform WeChat, and were using domestic companies to watch Chinese users.