China has seen a massive rise in recent months in complaints from people evicted from their homes by corrupt local officials. As RFA's Mandarain service reports, the evictions are prompting mass demonstrations by petitioners in the country's capital.
In a growing official recognition of the scale of social unrest now sweeping China, official statistics for June 22 show more than 18,600 complaints regarding demolitions and forced relocations were made to the Ministry of Construction since the beginning of the 2004. In all of 2003, China's Ministry of Construction reported 18,000 complaints.
The numbers do not include petitions made to other government departments are may represent only a fraction of petitions related to land disputes, many of which are suppressed before they reach the ministry.
"My brother was persecuted by the government. He had three houses and for a few thousand yuan they tore them down. He is a handicapped person...Isn't this a kind of pillaging?"
Construction vice-minister Fu Wenjuan was quoted by Hong Kong media as saying recently that half of the current demand in the Chinese real estate market is created by local government-backed demolitions and forcible relocations. Fu said the scale of construction projects surpasses the needs of economic development and the citizens.
"We see that this industry is the easiest in which to make a profit and bribe officials," Chris Wu, managing editor of China Affairs, a Chinese-language website based in Los Angeles in the United States. "As soon as they sell the land they make a profit, and they don't care what happens to the people."
Wu said that more than 10,000 people had staged protests in Beijing in recent weeks, but with no redress for their grievances.
One long-term petitioner, Ye Guozhu, has devoted much time to the cause of petitioners and evictees seeking justice in the capital, helping to stage mass protests outside key government buildings.
"They restricted our freedom because this is the kind of thing that the Communist Party does for starting something this," Ye told RFA reporter Shi Shan. "They didn't let me leave my home."
Ye said his brother, Ye Guoqiang attempted suicide by jumping into a river near Tiananmen Square on October 1 last year following the forced relocation of his aged parents by government agencies. Ye Guoqiang was later handed a two-year jail term for disturbing public order.
"My brother was persecuted by the government. He had three houses and for a few thousand yuan they tore them down. He is a handicapped person. To buy even a simple house in our country right now, especially in Beijing, you need at least tens of thousands of yuan...Isn't this a kind of pillaging?" Ye Guozhu said.
"This is forcibly taking the people's property. And, in the process of demolishing people's homes, they destroy the property inside. They carried away my frail 80-year-old parents, and took them out to a remote suburb. The next day we found our parents, who were within an inch of death," he told RFA.
Wu said forced evictions were piling on top of many other social and economic pressures in China, creating tremendous pressure on social stability at a time when central government has little ability to carry out its policies.
"Wen Jiabao has met with enormous resistance. The higher-ups make changes but the lower levels don't go along," Wu said in a recent interview. "There is obstruction in both Shanghai and Jiangxi. They think he has obstructed their access to property."
"They have realized that if they don't engage in corruption to earn money, they may not have another chance. So I believe the outlook is not good," he said.