End 'uncivilised' evictions of homeowners, Beijing demands

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 June, 2004, 12:00am

Scope of redevelopment to be reduced this year to dispel rising social tensions

Local authorities have been ordered to cut down on redevelopments this year and stop 'uncivilised' evictions of homeowners.

The orders came in a circular issued by the State Council's General Office and published on the Ministry of Construction's website.

It demanded strict compliance by local governments and ordered them to file progress reports to the State Council by October.

The 11-point document is the toughest stance yet taken by the central government to tackle rising tension between homeowners, developers and the government.

For the first time, it said local governments must ensure the scale of redevelopment this year is 'obviously less' than last year. It also castigated local governments for engaging in wasteful competition and blindly expanding redevelopment projects.

The document admitted the problems were widespread and said 'some local governments have ... expanded the scale of eviction without proper consideration, [and] some cities have knowingly cut compensation for affected families, regardless of stipulations made in [government] regulations covering eviction and resettlement'.

'Some even resort to administrative power in carrying out forced evictions. These acts not only seriously infringe on the legitimate rights of urban homeowners, they instigate mass protests and destabilise society.'

The circular said local governments should stop redevelopment and evictions in areas with frequent conflicts.

It said redevelopment in these areas would only be permitted if the ventures were 'important social redevelopment projects or involved dangerous housing and construction of government-subsidised housing'.

To reduce corruption, the circular required local governments to use public tendering processes to select construction companies for demolition work, and demanded that the chosen companies had no business links with the government.

'The parties responsible for the demolition work and relevant departments are strictly prohibited from using uncivilised and illegal methods to carry out forced eviction,' the circular said. '[They] must not resort to methods such as cutting supplies of water, electricity, gas and heat to force the occupants out.'

But Beijing lawyer Wu Jianzhong , who specialises in property lawsuits, doubted the circular would protect homeowners, saying local officials could easily get around the regulations.

'How are you going to define what qualifies as areas where conflicts over eviction happen frequently?' Mr Wu said.

'For example, [officials] can justify their actions by saying 'this project is important and should qualify for exemption because it has to do with the Olympic Games',' he said.