01 April 2008
Permission denied - housing rights activist in prison
Housing rights activist Ye Guozhu is serving a four-year prison sentence after he applied for permission to hold a demonstration against forced evictions in Beijing.

In December 2004, Ye Guozhu, then aged 49, was convicted of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” because of his opposition to the seizure and demolition of property to make way for new construction projects for this year’s Olympic games.

Ye Guozhu’s restaurant and living quarters were among many properties seized when officials of Beijing’s Xuanwu District conspired with developers to forcibly evict a large number of city residents. He received no compensation.

He is reported to have been tortured while in detention. Suspended from the ceiling by the arms and beaten repeatedly by police before his trial, he was also beaten with electro-shock batons in Chaobai prison, Beijing, towards the end of 2006.

He was then sent twice to Qingyuan prison for periods of “discipline”, most recently in February 2007 for 10 months, apparently because he tried to appeal his conviction.

The Chinese authorities have failed to either confirm or deny these reports, but official sources have confirmed that he was receiving treatment for ‘hypertension’. They have also confirmed that he was held in Chaobai prison and due for release on 26 July 2008.

The prison authorities are reported to only be giving him basic medicine for high blood pressure and preventing members of his family from supplying him with medicine. Ye is believed to be held incommunicado while under “discipline” in Qingyuan prison.

Ye Mingjun and Ye Guoqiang, son and brother of Ye Guozhu, were detained by Beijing police on suspicion of "inciting subversion" at the end of September 2007. They had protested against forced evictions that were reported to have been carried out to clear space for construction for the Beijing Olympics.

Ye Mingjun was released on bail in October 2007, but warned not to speak to the media as this could have a “negative impact” on his situation and that of his father. Ye Guoqiang was released on bail in January 2008, but on condition that he did not contact anyone overseas or continue with his petitioning activities.

The development of Beijing in preparation for the Olympics has seen many homes torn down. Jiang Yu, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said that, as of June 2007, 6,037 families had been displaced by Olympics related projects since 2002.

The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions estimates that more than 1.25 million people have been displaced in Beijing in connection to urban redevelopment projects, some of which are directly linked to construction projects for the Beijing Olympics, and that that number will rise to 1.5 million by August 2008. Many have reportedly been evicted without full procedural protection or due process and without adequate compensation.
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Most residents are relocated to what has been called poor housing on the outskirts of Beijing. Real estate companies – often owned by or affiliated with the local authorities carrying out the evictions – may then sell the land to developers for a profit.

Forced evictions are in violation of human rights including the right to adequate housing enshrined in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which China has ratified. While the Chinese government has taken steps to protect people from forced evictions – implementation of such laws and regulations remains weak.

Amnesty International considers Ye Guozhu to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely as a result of his peacefully held beliefs. Amnesty International calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Take Action The organization further calls on the Chinese government to stop the forced eviction of individuals from their homes carried out without full procedural protection, due process, government provision of adequate alternative accommodation for those unable to provide for themselves, and adequate compensation for any property affected.
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