Chinese officials fired after hiring student demolishers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 11:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 12:01pm

Three officials have been fired in Western China for lying about employing hundreds of students as a semi-official security force in a mass demolition effort.

Wang Chunyan, Liu Guangxiang and Yu Jing led some 2,671 uniformed staff to demolish illegal housing in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, last Sunday.

Some 72,000sqm of housing was destroyed in an 11 hour-long operation in Guanshanhu district, the city’s Propaganda Department said in a statement on Friday. About a third of the uniformed staff sent to prevent clashes between local residents and demolishers were students hired by a local security firm, it said.

Earlier this week, local government denied using students to increase the number of its demolition force. Photos shared by the students online showed long lines of young men and women in black uniforms resembling those of China’s special police force marching between the soon-to-be-torn-down buildings.

Internet users quickly speculated about universities hiring out students for profit after Foxconn, the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer electronics, late last week admitted to employing students at its factories in obligatory university-sponsored “internships”.

The Guizhou Aviation Industry College rushed to say it had not forced any of its students to participate in the demolition work in a statement on its website on Tuesday.

The Beijing News tracked down some of the students and found no evidence of forced labour. They studied at several local universities and were paid 80 yuan for half a day of work, which consisted of adding to the intimidating, menacing physical presence of the demolition force.

Picked-up at their dormitories at 4.30am, the students were given breakfast and then ferried in a long line of police-escorted buses to the scene of the demolitions.

The employment of a large number of students to scare local dwellers into submission is common practice, students told the Beijing paper. One said she and her classmates had participated in six such operations since May.