Officials from two virus-stricken cities in southern China may now confiscate private property in an effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak that has pushed the country’s health system to the limit.
According to a notice posted on Feb. 11, the city and district level authorities in Guangzhou city can, “when necessary,” “temporarily expropriate” houses, venues, transportation vehicles, and other facilities from companies or individuals.
The government could also ask for relevant organizations to produce or provide disease control equipment or daily supplies, according to the notice.
It noted that the officials carrying out such measures should compensate parties accordingly and return the materials if possible.
On the same day, the city of Shenzhen issued a similar notice authorizing local officials to expropriate supplies, equipment, and venues from the public to fulfill the needs of frontline health workers, provided they return the items or give compensation.
The Shenzhen notice also allowed the government to shut down factories, companies, schools, and limit public gatherings as well as the use of sites that are “susceptible to the outbreak’s harm.”
Heng He, a U.S.-based political affairs commentator, expressed skepticism about such measures. Although similar emergency policies have been utilized in other countries, Heng expressed concern about the regime’s capacity to honor its pledge to provide compensation.
“Doesn’t matter whether this is consistent with the constitutional law, the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t even obey their own laws,” he said.
Heng said the policy appeared to be a new way for Guangdong authorities to “rob riches from the public.”
“Even though they said there will be compensation, a lot of people have experienced such compensation during forced demolition—a lot are symbolic,” he said.
Forced demolition campaigns have been a recurring issue in China over the past two decades. According to a 2019 report by Beijing Shengting Law Firm, at least 751 complaints were filed from 2014 to 2017 over forced demolitions; and in 43 percent of the cases the officials did not follow any legal procedures.
Residents in other cities have reported local officials abusing the lockdown rules for profit.
A few citizens in the province of Hebei, who asked to be anonymous, told The Epoch Times local officers have blocked transportation in their neighborhood, and only allowed people go through if they offer some form of bribery, such as expensive wine.
Some netizens also echoed the same sentiments on Chinese social media.
“Personal properties … So where should these people go?” One asked. Others also relayed fears that given the authorities’ censorship of the on-the-ground situation, the policy could be a barometer of the outbreak’s severity.
Citizens all across China are told to wear masks when going into a public setting, while schools in over a dozen provinces have postponed the new term for the second time in around two weeks.
Around two dozen major international airlines, including United Airlines, Delta Airlines, and American Airlines, have suspended flights to China. American Airlines on Feb. 11 also extended its suspension through to late April, saying it will “make any adjustment if necessary.”
“With 99 percent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world,” Tedros Ghebreyesus, chief of the World Health Organization, said in a press conference on Tuesday.
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