Take care when pulling down houses by force, supreme court urges
The Supreme People's Court has asked local legal authorities to consider their actions carefully before pushing ahead with the forced demolition of housing and to stop demolitions when a homeowner threatens to commit suicide.
Anti-demolition demonstrations in recent years had featured the self-immolation of homeowners and the pouring of petrol on demolition teams, exerting an 'extremely bad social influence', the court said on its website yesterday.
It gave eight suggestions to local courts to prevent such incidents. Generally, demolition teams should stop work if the owner of the house took extreme action that could lead to injuries, it said.
The top court said that 'in principle', local courts should reject applications from government departments for permission to knock down a house when the owner had filed an appeal against demolition.
Forced demolitions have become commonplace amid rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, triggering riots, suicides and self-mutilation that the central leadership blames for contributing to social instability.
Wang Cailiang , a senior lawyer and director of the Beijing Cailiang Law Firm who specialises in fighting demolitions, said the website circular would make a difference because it gave very explicit guidelines on how to deal with demolitions, in contrast to the vague wording of current rules.
'It will doubtlessly become an important weapon for the public to fight against illegal demolition,' he said.
The circular was drafted and sent to local courts in May, after a farmer burned himself to death on the roof of his house in Zhuzhou, Hunan, in late April - the latest act of self-immolation linked to a forced demolition. It was released on the website yesterday morning, but disappeared just hours later.
'Local courts have always taken the side of local government departments [in charge of demolition] on the issue of demolition, but this time, it was like they had said 'no' to them,' Wang said. The supreme court might have removed the circular because of concerns that it could get too much attention, he said.
Yesterday, four ministries including the Ministry of Land and Resources jointly reported penalties for officials involved in six recent cases of forced demolition, the Legal Evening News reported. Two district government chiefs were dismissed for improperly handling demolitions.
The ministries also said 'illegal forced demolition is a red line that cannot be crossed, whatever the time or situation'.