Geneva, July 22 — An international coalition of 38 human rights groups called on the United Nations today to investigate allegations that the Chinese government committed gross human rights violations by forcibly evicting 18,000 families to make way for the current 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China. The giant exposition, whose motto is “Better Cities, Better Life,” runs until October.
The non-governmental organizations filed appeals with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Habitat director Anna Tibaijuka, and U.N. housing rights investigator Raquel Rolnik, arguing that China breached four articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by violating housing rights and denying evictees the right to protest. Criticism of the land grab was reported recently in the New York Times and the Washington Times.
The joint appeal was organized by Hillel Neuer, director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, together with Harvard University fellow Yang Jianli, the exiled Chinese dissident, Tiananmen Square survivor and president of Initiatives for China, a Boston-based democracy group advocating for the evictees.
“Given the inhumane eviction of 18,000 families without any due process,” said Neuer, “it is astonishing that not only is the U.N. a major sponsor of the Shanghai Expo, but that Ms. Tibaijuka, head of a U.N. agency dedicated to ‘providing adequate shelter for all,’ saw no irony in going to Shanghai and showering the Expo with praise.”
Supporters of the evictees have held protests in Shanghai, Beijing, Los Angeles, and New York.
The joint NGO appeal follows below.
JOINT NGO APPEAL FOR 18,000 VICTIMS OF
FORCED EVICTION BY 2010 SHANGHAI WORLD EXPO
22 July 2010
Dear UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
Dear UN Habitat Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka,
Dear UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik,
We urge you to investigate the forced eviction of 18,000 families to make way for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China, which is running now through October, and to take action to redress the serious violations of human rights inflicted upon them.
The Shanghai Expo’s slogan is “Better City, Better Life.” This is supposed to represent the common wish of humankind for better living in future urban environments. Yet all of this is lost on the thousands of victims who were forcibly removed from their homes—without compensation or fair notice—in order to make room for the exposition.
Many of the evicted have since been detained by the Chinese government. Others are kept under close surveillance and intimidated into silence. We are further alarmed by the reported mistreatment and intimidation of a group of women housing activists who have been prevented from leaving their homes.
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, under Article 12, guarantees that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his home. Article 25 guarantees the right to adequate housing. Article 17 guarantees that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. Articles 19 and 20 guarantee the right to peaceful protest. All of these rights appear to have been grossly violated in this case, creating a situation that requires the United Nations—and specifically your offices—to investigate and intervene.
This responsibility is particularly acute given that the United Nations itself, as you know, is actually a major participant in the Shanghai Expo, being the sponsor of a 32,000-square-foot pavilion. In fact, it is UN Habitat, the agency on urban development, which is coordinating the world body’s presence at the Expo. Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka herself opened the pavilion.
Our global civil society coalition calls your attention to such victims as Ms. Hu Yan, whose home was forcibly demolished in 2005 to clear land for the Expo. She petitioned the Chinese government to address her forced eviction but was met with ridicule, intimidation, and harassment. She left China in April 2010 and has held a daily vigil outside UN Headquarters calling for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to hear her case. Her letter to the Secretary-General is attached.
Ms. Yan also petitioned Under-Secretary-General Anna Tibaijuka, the director of UN Habitat, asking for an explanation as to “how the United Nations and UN Habitat, organizations with missions to improve the lives and dignity of human beings, can not only participate in such degradation of humanity but actually praise it.” (Letter attached.)
Moreover, Chinese human rights activist and Tiananmen Square survivor Yang Jianli has also written to Under-Secretary General Tibaijuka (letter attached), noting that the 18,000 families were forcibly evicted “without fair compensation or any due process for redressing their grievances.” The ground upon which the Shanghai Expo structures sit, he wrote, is “littered with the pulverized remains of the homes and hopes of citizens who were forcibly evicted to make room for these projects.”
We urge you to exercise your United Nations responsibilities to investigate and redress the grave violations caused to these 18,000 innocent families. They deserve justice, fair compensation and the restoration of their dignity.
- Hillel C. Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch, Switzerland
2. Jim Geheran, Director, Initiatives for China, USA
3. Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Delegate, Vietnamese League for Human Rights, Switzerland
4. William F. Mei, President, Asia-Pacific Human Rights Foundation, USA
5. Zohra Yusuf, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan
6. Ibrahima Niang, Human Rights Commission, Mouvement Citoyen of Senegal, Senegal
7. Amina Bouayach, Présidente, l’OMDH, Morocco
8. Abdurashid Abdulle Abikar, Chairman, Center for Youth and Democracy, Somalia
9. John J. Suarez, Human Rights Director, Directorio Democrático Cubano, USA
10. Alim Seytoff, Director, Uyghur American Association, USA
11. Michael Craig, Chair, China Rights Network, Canada
12. Fengsuo Zhou, President, Chinese Democracy Education Foundation, USA
13. Guelord Mbaenda, Executive Director, ADECOP, Democratic Republic of Congo
14. Jonathan Cao, President, Coalition for Citizens Rights, USA
15. Omar Lopez, Director, Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, USA
16. Fatiha Azzabi, Director, Africa Women in Development, Germany
17. Jiehmei Li, Officer, Deng Liberty Foundation, Taiwan
18. Naomi Ichihara Røkkum, VP, International Federation of Liberal Youth, Norway
19. Dr. Sev Ozdowski, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Univ. of Sydney, Australia
20. Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour, President, The International Quranic Center, USA
21. Nathaniel Ngwu, Officer, Legal Resources Consortium, Nigeria
22. Dickson M. David Ntwiga, Executive Director, Solidarity House International, Kenya
23. Mamadi Kaba, President, Raddho-Guinee, Guinea
24. C. Gautam, Nepal International Consumers Union, Nepal
25. Harris O. Schoenberg, President, UN Reform Advocates, USA
26. Bell Wong, President, Alliance for a Democratic China, USA
27. Fei Liangyong, President, Federation for a Democratic China, Germany
28. Huang Hebian, President, Allies of the Guard of Canadian Values, Canada
29. Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President and Co-Founder, Stop Child Executions, Canada
30. Christina Fu, President, New Hope Foundation, USA
31. Kok Ksor, President, Montagnard Foundation, USA
32. Obinna Egbuka, President, Youth Enhancement Organization, Nigeria
33. Rev. Bob Fu, Founder and President, China Aid Association, USA
34. Sharon Gustafson, President, International Council of Jewish Women, USA
35. Wang Shujun, President, Hu Yaobang & Zhao Ziyang Memorial Foundation, USA
36. Aleksander Smolar, Chairman, Stefan Batory Foundation, Poland
37. Eliel Masson, Secretary General, ARTZA-Switzerland, Switzerland
38. Anne Shay, PBVM, Lismore Presentation Congregation, Australia