Habitat International Coalition
Global network for the right to habitat and social justice
As Chinese Farmers Fight for Homes, Suicide Is Ultimate Protest
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Source: New York Times

Some farmers commit suicide to protest eviction, a reminder of how China's new urbanization push is at times a violent struggle with a powerful state.

Besides the self-immolations, farmers have killed themselves by other means to protest land expropriation. One Chinese nongovernmental organization, the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, reported that in addition to 6 self-immolations last year, 15 other farmers killed themselves. Others die when they refuse to leave their property: last year, a farmer in the southern city of Changsha who would not yield was run over by a steamroller, and last month, a 4-year-old girl in Fujian Province was struck and killed by a bulldozer while her family tried to stop an attempt to take their land.

In China, the timeline for moving 250 million rural residents into cities by 2025 is so rapid and far-reaching that it is raising concerns that some people will be left behind.

Amid the turmoil, the government is debating new policies to promote urbanization. A plan to speed up urbanization was supposed to have been unveiled earlier this year, but it has been delayed over concerns that the move to cities is already stoking social tensions. New measures are also being contemplated to increase rural residents’ property rights.

In the past, many farmers chose to leave their land for better-paying jobs in the city. Many still do, but farmers are increasingly thrown off their land by officials eager to find new sources of economic growth. The tensions are especially acute on the edge of big Chinese cities. After having torn down the historic centers of most Chinese cities and sold the land to developers, officials now target the rural areas on the outskirts of cities like Chengdu.

But such plans are opposed by local farmers. Many do not want to leave the land, believing they can earn more in agriculture than in factory work. Farmers on the outskirts of Chengdu, near the workshop where Tang Fuzhen committed suicide, say they can easily earn several hundred dollars a month, pay that dwarfs government compensation offers.

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• Destruction of Housing   • Displacement   • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights   • Forced Evictions   • Housing and Land Rights Violations   • Urban Centers   

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