Thursday, August 11, 2005
BILL SAVADOVE in Shanghai
Copyright – The South China Morning Post
Nearly 100 people demonstrated outside a meeting of Shanghai’s legislature yesterday for the second day in a row, chanting slogans and waving handwritten signs protesting over housing disputes.
The protesters shouted “Government robbers return our housing” and called for the city’s leaders to step down as they stood across the street from the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, where the Shanghai People’s Congress Standing Committee is meeting until tomorrow.
Public protests are rare in Shanghai, though residents have staged a series of rallies over compensation packages offered for being evicted from their homes to make way for property and infrastructure projects. At a full legislature meeting in January, protests occurred daily.
Police monitored the demonstration yesterday, but it was not known whether any arrests were made.
Witnesses said plain-clothes officers and bystanders mingled with the protesters on the footpath outside a luxury hotel and retail complex in the heart of the city.
The number of protesters swelled yesterday from 20 to 30 the previous day. They were protesting over housing disputes across the city, not one particular project.
“We are from all over Shanghai,” said one woman, adding that they were complaining about “mistreatment” in relocations.
Police kept protesters away from the exhibition centre, blocking the way with vehicles, and tried to prevent them from speaking to reporters.
Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng told the standing committee on Tuesday that one of the most important tasks for the second half of the year was “maintaining social stability”.
Mr Han also vowed that the city would strengthen control of the property market in line with central government policy.
Speculative money has driven Shanghai’s property prices higher in the past two years, to the point where some residents have complained that housing has been priced out of their reach.
Local officials said the rise in property prices had slowed after both the city and the central government moved to dampen speculation. Official figures show housing prices rose 5.1 per cent in the first half of the year.
Shanghai relocated more than 55,000 families last year, nearly 37 per cent fewer than in 2003. Evictions are expected to grow this year as the city clears the future site of the 2010 World Expo.
Analysts said protests over property and land seizures were growing across the mainland because of economic development.
Some mainland officials have said growing protests are a sign of greater democracy, while rights groups say they highlight the lack of a mechanism to resolve disputes when local governments are involved.
BILL SAVADORE – The South China Morning Post
Thursday, August 11, 2005