Correction to This Article
This article about a government raid in western China incorrectly attributes a report that Olympic organizers have assigned more than 100 military and anti-terrorism experts and more than 100,000 police officers to patrol during the Games. The source was the Sing Tao Daily, a Hong Kong newspaper.

China Defends Relocation Policy

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BEIJING, Feb. 19 -- Beijing officials on Tuesday defended their relocation of nearly 15,000 people as part of the massive construction projects that have transformed the capital into a 31-venue showcase for this summer's Olympic Games.

More than 6,000 households have voluntarily relocated from the venue sites over the past several years and all have been fairly compensated, Zhang Jiaming, vice chair of the Beijing Municipal Construction Committee, told reporters, outlining a policy that has been the focus of petition campaigns and protests, which the Communist Party has tried to suppress.

"The relocation project went very smoothly, so no one was forced out of their homes at any of the venues," Zhang said. Families who could prove ownership were compensated, on average, about $87,500, enough to allow some displaced residents to pass up government-provided affordable housing, purchase an apartment and buy a new car, Zhang said.

Zhang's remarks were disputed by some residents and by advocates for the displaced, highlighting yet another controversy confronting authorities in the run-up to this summer's Games.

"The key issue remains the lack of transparency for all this massive relocation," said Nicholas Bequelin, China researcher for Human Rights Watch. "People did get money and were resettled, but what is important is what happened to the people who protested. Many people were taken to police stations or threatened with job dismissal."

Unresolved grievances include accusations that much of the compensation money was embezzled by corrupt local officials, that many relocations were in fact forced, that heavy-handed police tactics were used to evict residents, and that there was no opportunity to object when compensation didn't match the value of people's homes, Bequelin said.

Guo Tiehui, 38, said residents in his neighborhood received a notice in May 2006 from district officials informing them that the area had to be improved for the Olympics, even though it was not a venue site. Guo's 2,153-square-foot courtyard home was torn down Jan. 20, but he said the compensation he received was based on an area of only 725.4 square feet.

"Before, my family lived in several rooms and rented out other rooms," he said. "Right now, we have to rent an apartment. We not only lost our shelter but we also lost a stable income. How can we buy a new apartment with the same area with such a small amount of compensation?"

"Chinese people do support the Olympics, but we also need reasonable compensation," Guo said. "The government should not use the Olympics as a big hat to put on our heads. The government always blames outsiders for politicizing the Olympics, but domestically they make the Olympics a political issue. We don't believe that our houses were torn down for the Olympics. The real purpose is moneymaking."

Renters were not compensated after being forced from their homes, said Han Xiuying, head of housing demolition for the city's Construction Committee. "They don't have a house at all," she said in a telephone interview. "Where did their houses come from that are supposedly torn down by us? How can we compensate them? We have already compensated the house owner."

Also Tuesday, a land rights activist was tried for inciting subversion after he gathered signatures from disaffected farmers and protested the Olympics in an Internet posting in which he said, "We want human rights, not the Olympics."

Yang Chunlin, an unemployed factory worker, was helping farmers who believed their land had been seized illegally. State prosecutors said the petition had harmed China's international image.

News researcher Zhang Jie contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company