Police Detain Shaanxi Property Rights Advocate

August 30, 2005

An advocate for Shaanxi investors who are challenging a government seizure of their oil wells was detained after local officials lured him out of hiding with a forged e-mail, according to an article in the Washington Post. Police officials in Yulin, Shaanxi province, have confirmed that they detained Feng Bingxian on July 26. Feng, a businessman, has been leading a lawsuit by thousands of investors against the local government. The investors claim that Shaanxi provincial officials illegally seized privately owned oil wells worth up to $850 million. Feng is not the first individual to be detained in connection with the sensitive case. In May, public security officials detained Zhu Jiuhu, a prominent Beijing attorney who was representing the investors. Zhu was reportedly charged with disturbing social order and illegal assembly simply for meeting with his clients.

The Chinese government has gone to great efforts to publicize its efforts to expand legal protections for property rights. Last year, the National People’s Congress passed a series of constitutional amendments that expand property rights protections. The NPC is also working on a draft Property Law to improve the legal rights of property holders. Observers of the Shaanxi case note that it is an important test of the Chinese government’s commitment to rule of law and the protection of property rights in practice.