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Olympics protesters clash with police in Beijing

A small group of protesters has clashed with police near Tiananmen Square in China’s capital, saying they were evicted from their homes to make way for reconstruction ahead of the Olympic Games.
/ Source: The Associated Press

About 20 people angry about being evicted from their homes in central Beijing demonstrated Monday not far from Tiananmen Square, saying the Olympics should not curb their legal rights.

Uniformed police quickly surrounded the residential street where the group was shouting about being kicked out of their homes and not getting proper compensation. The protesters had been evicted as early as 2003.

"We don't oppose the Olympics. But it's wrong for them to demolish our house. It's wrong," said protester Liu Fumei, who scuffled with women in civilian clothes who were trying to force her from the area.

The police officers did not interfere, but women who said they were members of a neighborhood committee pushed and led the protesters away from the area. Neighborhood committees are not officially part of the government but work closely with police and other departments.

China is sensitive to any public criticism of the Beijing Olympics, which begin Friday, and has stationed security agents throughout the city to watch for signs of unrest. Demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square are rare and generally stopped quickly by police.

It was not clear where the protesters were taken, and whether they were detained. A duty officer in the Beijing police news office said he did not know what happened to them.

A large crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the protest in the historic Qianmen district just south of Tiananmen Square, one of Beijing's most famous landmarks where large pro-democracy protests were held in 1989. Authorities cracked down hard on those protesters.

Monday's demonstrators were unhappy about being evicted from their former homes in the area to make way for redevelopment. The area is being rebuilt into a commercial strip with businesses such as Nike, Starbucks and Rolex, and it is scheduled to open on Thursday.

"Developers shouldn't use the Olympics to take our homes. And we cannot stop protecting our rights because of the Olympics," protester Ma Xiulan said.

Beijing carried out a US$40 billion makeover in preparation for the Olympics, and many older homes were razed as part of the modernization campaign.

The protesters' complaints are not unique. Residents who are displaced to make way for new development without being paid enough compensation to buy new homes have protested in cities throughout the country.