Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chinese protesters fight suppression of land grab march

EVICTIONS Illegal land acquisitions are affecting thousands of people as government officials have used real-estate schemes to enrich themselves

AFP , BEIJING

Chinese protesters planning a 10,000-person march against illegal land seizures, forced evictions and police brutality said yesterday they would keep trying to overturn a government ban on the rally.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau denied them permission to stage the demonstration around the Communist Party headquarters in the center of the capital and around Tiananmen Square on July 1, they said.

"We want to protest against the wrongdoings of the government, in our application we listed 15 items," Zheng Mingfang, an organizer who drew up the application, told reporters. "We think we can organize up to 10,000 people, so we will keep trying. To hold protest marches is a right protected in the state constitution."

Their march would have coincided with a huge demonstration involving hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong who were campaigning for greater democracy in the former colony on the seventh anniversary of the July 1 handover to China.

July 1 is also celebrated in China as the birthday of the Chinese Communist Party, which was founded in Shanghai in 1921.

Despite Zheng's optimism, two other organizers involved in housing disputes and small scale protests in front of the Beijing city government said they were detained on July 1 and held in police custody for the day.

"Over 10 police officers broke into my courtyard and took me to Xinjiekou district police station," Ni Yulan said. "I asked why I was being detained and they said they wanted to ask me some questions, but when I got to the police station no one asked me anything."

Ni, who has accused police at the Xinjiekou station of beating and crippling her in April 2002, last year served a year in prison for her protests against the Beijing government for forcefully evicting her from her home, she said.

Ye Guozhu, who has protested his forced eviction from his home in Beijing, was also held in police custody for the day. Ye's brother is serving a two-year sentence for protesting on Tiananmen Square against the family's eviction.

According to the organizers, the police refused to give a written refusal to their request to hold the protest. A written refusal could be used if the protesters decide to seek judicial redress in a lawsuit against the police.

Despite the refusal, a group of between 300 and 400 protesters from Jilin, Heilongjiang and Hebei provinces held an early morning sit-in on Tiananmen Square early on July 1, but were later carted away by police, witnesses said.

"The protest did not last very long. The police brought in six big buses and came and took them away," a witness said.

Illegal land acquisitions and forced evictions by the government have enraged thousands of Chinese nationwide, as government officials have used real-estate schemes to enrich themselves at the expense of the general public.

Protest organizers also listed unemployment, the charging of illegal fees, a refusal of the government to receive or act on formally-lodged petitions and the persecution of political dissidents and religious believers as reasons for the protests.

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