Dr. Yang Jianli speaking with reporters at press conference following Sparrow Initiative protest inside UN Headquarters

Good afternoon. My name is Yang Jianli, President of Initiatives for China and Fellow at Harvard University. We are here as a delegation of the Sparrow Initiative. The Sparrow Initiative is a coalition of citizens and victims of forced evictions instigated by the Chinese government in clear violation of China’s own constitution and Articles #8 and #12 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


This press conference and the protest action we took this morning at the United Nations has three objectives:


  1. First objective is: To hold the United Nations and in particular UN-HABITAT, accountable for their failure to protect 18000 citizens of Shanghai. 18000 families were forcibly evicted without fair compensation or due process when their land and homes were appropriated for the building of the Shanghai World Expo. Furthermore we hold the UN contempt of its very mission by accepting the gift of a free Pavilion at the expo, which they knew or should have known that this free Pavilion was property stolen form of 18000 families whom UN-HABITAT is chartered to protect not to plunder.
  2. The second objective: To demonstrate to the long suffering citizens of Shanghai and all the peoples suffering under the oppression of the Totalitarian government of China, that the world still cares about the rights human beings and that their legitimate right to protest and seek redress of their grievances can be exercised, will be exercised, and will continue to be exercised until their voice is heard.
  3. Objective 3. To demonstrate to the Chinese government that they can no longer treat the citizens China like so much garbage. That is a price to pay for their systematic widespread corrupt policies that in the word of Charter 08 have “stripped people of their rights, destroyed their dignity, and corrupted normal human intercourse.”


Toward these ends we call on the United Nations, and specifically UN HABITAT to take the following actions:

  1. To publicly call on the city of Shanghai to give a full accounting and to produce all records of how the land on which the Shanghai expo, including the United Nations Pavilion, was obtained.
  2. To obtain a meeting meet with a delegation of the Sparrow Initiative and the Executive Director of UN HABITAT that includes direct victims of the forced evictions related to the Shanghai Expo. The purpose of this meeting is to provide a f first hand account of the egregious assault on human rights and dignity delivered to them by the government of Shanghai and with the complicity, through both omission and commission, of the United Nations.
  3. Finally, given the fact that these forced evictions are a matter of record reported in the world’s media, we submit that the burden of proof lies with the government of Shanghai. As such, to pressure the Shanghai government to give a full accounting, and for the United Nations to show its good faith, we demand that the UN Pavilion in Shanghai be closed until such an accounting is provided.

In the name of justice and citizen power we declare today that we will not rest and we will continue our protest until UN HABITAT lives up to its responsibilities and justice is served. Thank you. I will be happy to take any questions