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Unreported World

China's Olympic Lie

Friday 19 October 2007, 7.30pm

When it won the Olympic bid, China promised to improve its human rights record. Instead, as this week's Unreported World reveals, things have got worse.

When it won the Olympic bid, China promised to improve its human rights record. Instead, as this week's Unreported World reveals, things have got worse. In a world exclusive, Reporter Aidan Hartley and Producer Andrew Carter film inside one of Beijing's 'black jails' - which the authorities deny exist - and with ordinary people suffering the consequences of fighting eviction to make way for Olympic infrastructure.

China has spent £19 billion on the Olympic sites, but this figure represents a fraction of the money that has gone into one of the swiftest and most radical urban redevelopment schemes in all of human history. Some 5,000 old neighbourhoods, or hutongs, have been bulldozed to make way for avenues of high rises and up to 1.5 million people have been forcibly relocated. Although many are happy to receive compensation and relocation to new apartments, the eviction packages are not negotiable and many who refuse to move have suffered terrible consequences.

Everywhere the team travels in Beijing they meet desperate and angry ordinary Chinese, many of them elderly, who have been beaten, threatened and intimidated by developers and government officials who warn: 'The sooner you leave the more you win, the longer you leave it the worse you will suffer'.

Unreported World films one family living in a 'nail house', so-called because it sticks out from the flattened landscape like a nail, and must be banged down flat. Liu Feng Chi had fought eviction for five years but died in August. His widow and her mentally handicapped son now live in a home, half-demolished despite a court order forbidding the eviction to go ahead. On film the police break up her husband's funeral to 'preserve public order' and for weeks afterwards, they surround her home, preventing her from going ahead with the ceremony.

And it's not just those protesting about eviction who are targeted. Chinese citizens are legally allowed to travel to the capital to present claims such as dispossession of their property and corruption cases to the state. Unreported World interviews many of them who've ended up living on the streets, sleeping rough in the subways, all of them desperate.

Now the authorities have ordered provincial officials to get rid of these unsightly hordes because they spoil the image of the Olympic city. Many of them have ended up in 'black jails', which exist entirely outside Chinese law, but are run with the collusion of the state.

In never-before-seen footage, the team gains access to one 'black jail' and interviews inmates including the elderly and disabled. Many of them tell Hartley that they have been beaten - to the extent that one of them could not even walk. They are being held 20 or 30 to a room; sometimes for several weeks.

However, filming is cut short when a dozen guards turn up, attacking the crew and smashing their camera, before detaining them for six hours.

When Unreported World asks city and Olympics officials to comment on these extraordinary scenes of suppression, they claim to have no knowledge of what is taking place. As the team leaves the country, it's clear that for those most affected by the games, the Olympic slogan of "One World, One Dream" is more of a nightmare.