Evicted Beijing families protest in front of foreign media

Society Materials 4 August 2008 17:40 (UTC +04:00)

Members of three to five families staged a small protest in front of foreign reporters on Monday to voice dissatisfaction over housing compensation, state media said.

The families met the reporters at the famous Qianmen commercial area, which has undergone a rapid pre-Olympic makeover and is scheduled to reopen formally on Thursday.

The crowd around the journalists from at least three foreign media organisations "caused a traffic jam as other people joined to watch the scene", the agency said.

"The police rushed to the scene to maintain order" and had dispersed the crowd within 30 minutes, it reported, without saying if any protesters or reporters were detained.

In the massive redevelopment of Beijing over the last 15 years, many families were forcibly evicted after refusing to move because they were unhappy with compensation or alternative accommodation offered by developers and the government.

Some attempted lawsuits, staged protests and lobbied officials over the heavy-handed redevelopment, but few succeeded in winning more than token concessions.

Campaigners had tried to preserve the Qianmen area, which lies south of Tiananmen Square in the city centre, and critics call the renovated main street, which has a short tram line, a "theme park" version of the original.

"I think they will make it very fun," Matthew Hu, managing director of the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Centre, said last month of the Qianmen renovation.

"But at the same time it will be very plain, without the real depth of history," Hu told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

A commercial housing project in the nearby Xianyukou district is likely to become "what we call a Disney-fied area", he said.