March 7, 2008

Chinese Advisor Confirms Forced Eviction for Three Gorges Project

Text of report by Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post website on 7 March

[Report by Shi Jiangtao in Beijing: "Three Gorges Official Defends Forced Eviction"; headline as provided by source]

A senior official in charge of the Three Gorges Dam project has defended the forced eviction of the people in Chongqing yet to be displaced by the gigantic reservoir.

It is the first time the government has confirmed a report by the South China Morning Post that local authorities had cut off power and water supply for thousands of people in Kai county since last week.

Gao Jinbang, a deputy director of the State Council's Three Gorges Project Construction Committee Executive Office, said local governments in the reservoir area sometimes had to resort to forced action to evict people who refused to move.

"It (cutting water and power supply) happened in other places before when authorities tried to empty towns and villages by the deadline," he said on the sidelines of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference meeting in Beijing.

He also confirmed more than 4,000 people still refused to leave the old county town, 300km northeast of downtown Chongqing, because of disputes over compensation for their resettlement.

"It is common for many people to seek better deals before the water level rises (to its maximum of 175 metres late this year), and that's why they are still there," Mr Gao said.

Pressed by higher authorities to empty Kai county, officially the last to be uprooted to make room for the reservoir, by June, local governments have interrupted water and electricity supplies from Thursday last week, according to local residents.

They accused local authorities of ignoring their grievances and their rights to proper resettlement.

"We don't want to move because of the unfair compensation deal. But we have no options left, as it looks as if we will be forced out soon," Hu Yinju, a Kai county resident, said.

About 1.4 million people in 21 cities and counties in Chongqing and Hubei have been displaced.

Originally published by South China Morning Post website, Hong Kong, in English 7 Mar 08.

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