Shenzhen's arbitrary evictions grossly unfair

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 April, 2011, 12:00am

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Mainland authorities often emphasise the many different ways of interpreting the rule of law, the role of the judiciary and the importance of individual rights and freedoms. Nevertheless, in every jurisdiction, no matter what type of law is practised or how it is interpreted, there is wide agreement, at least in principle, that citizens should not be treated as criminals or undesirables purely because of personal lifestyle choices or social circumstances beyond their control. Any allegation of wrongdoing must first be proved in a court or appropriate tribunal before sanctions can be imposed.

Sadly, this failure to respect the basic rights of citizens seems to have been taken to an extreme degree with the ongoing campaign to evict unwelcome persons from Shenzhen before the Summer Universiade, a quasi-Olympics for university students from around the world, begins in August. The local authorities have drawn up a list of people who might be 'acting suspiciously posing a threat to people and security' resulting in the eviction of 80,000 people since the beginning of the year. However, those evicted did not end up on the list because of recently proven crimes. They may merely have been jobless, or considered to have abnormal living habits, or be mentally ill, or residents without the correct ID cards. Many more will also have been former inmates or alleged drug users. In other words, they will have been evicted purely because authorities considered their presence was inconvenient or embarrassing. They have done nothing wrong, even in the eyes of the mainland's flawed judicial system, and yet they can be arbitrarily removed.

Naturally, any authority which is about to host a major international event will be anxious to show it can organise things efficiently and without disruption. But cities around the world, including Beijing and Shanghai, have been able to so without breaking their own laws. Without question, Shenzhen should do everything it can to show the world its ability to run international events safely and efficiently, but the arbitrary evictions are grossly unfair and undermine any kudos the authorities might hope to gain.