Demolition violence stirs fury on the mainland

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 November, 2010, 12:00am

A 53-year-old farmer in Taiyuan, Shanxi, was beaten to death by dozens of men wielding sticks last weekend as he tried to defend his home from demolition.

In Ningbo, Zhejiang , another man protesting against forced eviction has been broadcasting his resistance, which he's calling 'countdown to the death', live on one of the mainland's most popular internet chat rooms for a week.

On Wednesday, 1,000 residents in Meilong town, Chizhou, Anhui staged a protest against forced acquisition of land. A senior city official was reportedly injured and two police cars damaged, according to the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy

Also last week, the party chief in Jiangxi's Wanzai county, Chen Xiaoping , told a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences professor Yu Jianrong it was a case of 'no demolition, no growth'.

He said development was vital for the economy and 'if we officials don't demolish, what would you academics live on?' Yu put details of Chen's conversation on his micro-blog.

In response, new Jiangxi vice-governor Zhu Hong said that to avoid negative social impacts, the emphasis should instead be on 'legal demolition, harmonious demolition', Xinhua reported.

The Yangcheng Evening News said Chen, in a speech to county cadres, had also threatened to throw frequent petitioners into labour education camps. Forced demolitions are among the most common grievances for petitioners seeking redress from the central government.

The three cases have stirred up a hornets' nest of fury on the mainland, where the struggle for land to feed rapid urbanisation has become increasingly violent, with officials, developers and even hired thugs putting pressure on residents to vacate their homes.

Meng Fugui and his neighbour Wu Wenyuan , whose home next door was also facing demolition, were on watch in a room in Meng's home on Saturday night when about 60 men broke in, Wu said. He survived by pretending to be dead, but had four fingers broken when the thugs prevented him from calling police.

The Beijing News said the Shanxi Tongxin Construction Demolition Company had been hired to knock down Meng's block, and the attackers worked for the Qixing Security Company. Shanghai-based Dragon TV said the community would be replaced by a road.

Meng's 26-year-old son, Meng Jianwei, said police had shown little interest in the case and media in Shanxi had been prevented from reporting it.

In Ningbo, grocer Xu Zhongguo is the only holdout who has not signed an agreement with a state-owned developer. Another villager agreed to move out on Sunday after being spooked by the violence on Saturday night.

Xu saw one of his neighbours' houses torn down after more than 20 men forcibly dragged out six people. The house owner was beaten up.

'In the evening my wife and I rotate to guard our house,' Xu said. 'We have prepared some bottles filled with petrol. If they arrive [to demolish], all of my family - my parents, my wife, my sister, my six-year-old daughter and I, will fight back.'

He said he believed the raiders worked for a demolition company.

Shanghai-based lawyer Zhang Dongya said violent evictions had increased in the past few months because the central government was soon expected to pass a new demolition regulation that would make many of the forced demolition practices used on the mainland illegal.

'At present they just pull down houses first, then negotiate [with property owners] on the compensation,' Zhang said. 'This practice is not reasonable at all and has infringed people's human rights.'

He said the revisions to the current demolition regulation, in train since last year, were doomed to a 'difficult birth' because of interference from local governments.