Sept. 4 - Residents of an eastern Chinese city say they were evicted fom their homes and harassed by a local government desperately trying to finance its debt by selling their land. Ivor Bennett reports.
Xu Haifeng has seen the dark side of China's local government debt. Three years ago she was evicted and her house demolished - the city of Wuxi's hard-up authorities selling her land to raise much-needed cash. This is where she used to live. The new houses which replaced hers are selling for up to four times what she was offered. And since she tried to fight she says she's been a target. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) WUXI RESIDENT WHOSE HOUSE WAS DEMOLISHED, XU HAIFENG, SAYING: "Ever since they started to demolish our house and relocate us, my husband and I have been constantly harassed. At my front door, I was beaten black and blue, but the public security authorities wont investigate." Xu's case couldn't be independently verified. But all of these evictees claim similar abuse. This is all that's left of Shen Jun's house. He says he was beaten and detained when he refused to hand it over. (SOUNDBITE)(Mandarin) 40-YEAR-OLD WUXI RESIDENT EVICTED FROM HIS HOME, SHEN JUN, SAYING: "They demolish our homes and relocate us because they don't have money. Any place which has a deficit does it - that's just the way it is." Wuxi's authorities couldn't be reached for comment. But according to Amnesty International, land grabs in China are nothing new. As the country's economy has slowed, they've also increased. Local governments are in need of cash after borrowing heavily to fund big construction projects. This huge new courthouse in Wuxi a prime example. Investment in the province was equivalent to more than half its economy last year. And nationwide, local government borrowing exceeds 1.5 trillions dollars. Industrial Bank's Lu Zhengwei thinks land disputes could be avoided if dealt with fairly. (SOUNDBITE)(Mandarin) CHIEF ECONOMIST AT INDUSTRIAL BANK CO., LTD, LU ZHENGWEI, SAYING: "The first problem that needs to be resolved is how to ensure all sides are protected, especially those whose land is being seized. The second is how to ensure that the profit is used openly, transparently and effectively, and not, for example, received in part with no-one knowing where the rest has gone." Its drive for urbanisation has helped China become the world's second biggest economy. But it's clearly come at a cost. Land seizures are among the biggest causes of social unrest across the country.