Washington, D.C. August 5,  2010

U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff met with a delegation from the Sparrow Initiative on Friday, August 5th, to discuss the Chinese government’s practice of forced evictions.

The Sparrow Initiative is a movement of Chinese citizens dedicated to ending the practice of forced evictions and to obtaining fair compensation for the victims of this illegal practice.  Forced evictions are a common occurrence on Mainland China, accounting for more than 80% of all the formal petitions of grievances filed with the Chinese government every year.  Sparrow Initiative groups have now formed in more than a half dozen Chinese provinces.

During the meeting at the Congressman’s 29th district California office, Mr. Yang Haihan, a constituent of Congressman Schiff, gave a first hand account of how Changchun government officials conspired with local developers to take over his family’s business and evict his mother from her property.

Initiatives for China President and organizer of the Sparrow Initiative, Dr. Yang Jianli, provided  Congressman Schiff with a detailed update on the issue of forced evictions, which are a growing source of instability within Chinese society.  In particular he described the situation in Shanghai where 18000 families were evicted to clear land for the Shanghai Expo which opened on May 1, 2010.  Forced evictions are also being employed in the development of a Disney World theme park planned for Shanghai.

Congressman Schiff expressed his deep interest in the progress of the Sparrow Initiative. At the conclusion of the meeting, he promised to write to U.S. Ambassador to China to ask him to closely follow these cases of forced evictions.


Quick Links:

Chines Citizens Learning the Rule of law

Forced Evictions A Common Practice in China

Washington Post Editorial on Chinese Government’s Growing Boldness Toward Abuse of Its Citizens



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, 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. Yu Han, who was evicted from her home in 2002 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 May 2010 and has held a daily vigil outside UN Headquarters calling for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to hear her case. Her letter is attached here.

Chinese human rights activist and Tiananmen Square survivor Yang Jianli has petitioned Ms. Tibaijuka, asking, “How can the United Nations and UN Habitat, organizations with missions to improve the lives and dignity of human beings, not only participate in such degradation of humanity, but actually praise it?” He has also sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, available here.

We urge you to exercise your United Nations responsibilities to investigate and redress the grave violations caused to 18,000 innocent evictees. They deserve justice, fair compensation and the restoration of their dignity.

Hillel C. Neuer, Executive Director, United Nations Watch, Switzerland

[Additional NGO Signatures]