Chinese officials have forcefully (often violently) evicted rural poor to sell off hundreds of billions of dollars worth of public land during the past few years, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
The human rights group has documented 40 specific cases of land sale and forced eviction, including one case in which a 70-year-old women was buried alive by an earth mover. Its report covers the period of 2009-2012, detailing a series of atrocities like 41 self-immolations and the kidnapping of a child to coerce a mother into signing eviction papers.
While a culture of impunity for local officials has long existed in China, the pace of land sales and forced evictions has increased in recent years, thanks to pressure to cover huge government debts. Policy changes in the mid-1990s saw more local tax revenue going to the central government, forcing local officials to shoulder more debt. The report blames, in particular, China's $628.5bn post-financial crisis stimulus package for putting pressure on local authorities to accelerate sales and cover stimulus-related spending. (In 2009 alone, land sales brought in an estimated income of $223bn.)
The news also lays bare China's growing struggle to balance government-sponsored growth with widespread public discontent. And it alludes to what many investigative reports have already shown: that collusion between Chinese government officials and investors have made a number of well-connected families extremely rich, while leaving hundreds of millions in poverty.
Sources: Al Jazeera, Financial Times, New York Times, Amnesty