Thugs accused of eviction-row killing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2006, 12:00am

Wife claims farmer was beaten to death, but police say he jumped from his house

A farmer facing eviction in Jiangsu province was beaten to death by thugs hired by local government officials, his wife claimed yesterday.

But police rejected the allegation, saying He Guosheng, 45, killed himself by falling from the top of his three-storey house in Yaocai village in Jiangyin's Chengjiang township, one of eight townships in the city to be redeveloped under a government plan to expand urban areas.

Li Aiming said her husband was beaten by more than 20 people with truncheons on Sunday night as he tried to escape four thugs who entered their house through a balcony.

'The four people came on to our balcony from a [vacated] neighbouring house. My husband went up and argued with them. Then he decided it would be safer to run away,' Ms Li said yesterday.

But He was beaten by the crowd outside who all wore safety helmets, Ms Li said. Truncheons were found at the scene the next day, she said.

Her husband was sent to hospital and later certified dead. The cause of death was not immediately known, but Ms Li said he had suffered severe head injuries.

'His head was so swollen that I couldn't recognise him,' she said.

A Jiangyin Public Security Bureau propaganda official said he was not aware of the incident, but another bureau employee said He's death had been reported to police. 'But he was not beaten to death,' she said.

Ms Li said she met local police yesterday and the officials concluded that He died after jumping from a height. 'This is so ridiculous. Would someone who jumps from a height get those bruises?' she said.

Ms Li said Yaocai villagers clashed with police late last month and some villagers were forced to sign relocation agreements.

The government had been taking land in the area - where property prices have been rising due to its proximity to the Yangtze Delta - for urban projects.

Villagers were unhappy with the compensation but several bowed to government pressure and agreed to move out to avoid trouble, said a reporter who covered the eviction process.

Ms Li said the couple were planning to sign an agreement to vacate their house after the government had offered to pay them more than 100,000 yuan and give them with a new home.

'Why would they beat my husband to death? We refused to move out, but not anymore. This is so unfair,' she said.

The incident came as Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan vowed to improve enforcement to control land management and sales.

Mr Zeng made the comments following a two-day meeting in Kunming, Yunnan province .

Mr Zeng was quoted by the China Securities Journal yesterday as saying the benefits of property development must be adjusted within the 'system's structure'.