PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 March, 2013, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 March, 2013, 11:51pm

Gruesome photos of Henan farmer killed in land grab protest


Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui

A gruesome photo, widely first circulated on Chinese micro-blogs on Thursday, showing a man crushed to death by a massive tractor front loader has outraged netizens.

The photo is of a villager, Song Heyi, who was understood to have been killed on Wednesday defending his property in Zhongmu County, near Zhengzhu, Henan province, from a land confiscation. 

A relative told the Dahe Daily on Thursday that an agricultural tourism company started ploughing Song’s land “without even one sheet of a contract.” In an effort of stopping the company working on his land, Song tried to block one of its vehicles and was eventually crushed by it, the relative told Henan’s leading daily.

“Five, six days ago, I noticed that they have started working, they uprooted more then ten trees,” fellow villager Song Changhai told the Dahe Daily. The villagers had negotiated with the company, Song said, but had not reached an agreement on compensation for their land.

On Wednesday, both Songs tried to argue with the company’s workers and block the tractor with their bodies, but just before he was crushed to death, Song Heyi pushed away his relative. “If he hadn’t pushed me, I wouldn’t be alive now, ” Song Changhai said.

Company representative Liang Zhanfeng told the Dahe Daily that the tractors driver didn’t see Song, because the villager stood in a blind spot. Liang said the company had an “oral agreement” with Song’s family, paying 800 yuan (HK$1,000) rent per year for every mu of land (one mu is 795 sq metres). The tractor driver has since been detained by the police. 

The case is reminiscent of the death of Qian Yunhui, which shocked the country in 2010. After years of petitioning in a similar land dispute, the head of a Zhejiang village died after being crushed by a truck.

Authorities at first denied he had been killed intentionally, saying he had been struck when crossing the road. Eyewitnesses initially said Qian had been held down by four men while being crushed to death. They later recanted and the company reached a settlement with the family.


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