A senior Beijing official Wednesday denied reports in the foreign press that about 300,000 residents had been evicted from their homes in the city to prepare for the 2008 Olympics.
"Such reports do not reflect the real conditions of household resettlement amid Beijing's massive urban construction." Miao Leru, director of the Beijing Municipal Administration of State Land, Resources and Housing, spoke at a press conference.
Miao handed out a Reuters report that quoted a member of a global activist group as saying, "Nearly 100,000 families, amounting to nearly 300,000 people, have been evicted so far in Beijing and thousands more evictions are expected."
"The truth is, over 400,000 households have been relocated since 1991 and their housing area has soared from 20 square meters to 60 square meters per family on average," Miao said.
Miao readily admitted that in some cases demolition and removal were conducted illegally.
"But such illegal acts make up only a small percentage of demolitions and household resettlements," the official said.
During the first three quarters of last year, only four out of every 1,000 resettlements were forced, said sources.
Miao stressed that those who conducted illegal demolitions have been held criminally liable.
Compensation paid to relocated residents was higher than the average market value of similar real estate projects in the same area, he pointed out.
"For example, in the demolition project for the third phase of the World Trade Tower in Beijing, the price of real estate in the area was 3,800 yuan (US$459) to 5,760 yuan (US$696) per square meter. But the actual compensation for the residents there is 6,400 yuan (US$773) per square meter," he said.
According to Miao, appraisals of housing are conducted prior to demolition.
"If residents do not trust in the appraisal organization appointed by government, they can hire other organizations to do the work," he said.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that the large-scale house demolition and household relocation are in tune with the capital city's long-term development, and are not merely for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
"A total of 6,000 households will be relocated due to the construction of Olympics venues. So far 5,000 families have been removed," he said.
Miao denied rumors that real estate developers colluded with the government to profit from the demolition projects.
"We welcome reports from the public on corruption in household relocation," he said.
Zhai Zhenrong, 80, who lives in a residential compound in Beijing's Xuanwu District, said Wednesday, "I'm looking forward to the government helping us move out of here."
She shares the old room of less than 20 square meters, where she has lived for 60 years, with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson.
Zhai said she is confident that the government will help her to find a better place to live when her original house is demolished.
(China Daily March 11, 2004)