forced demolition

Henan couple dragged 'half-naked to cemetery' as house is forcibly demolished

Local authorities make rare admission that forced razing was carried out on couple's house

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 7:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 7:45pm

A couple's four-storey house was forcibly demolished, authorities confirmed on Monday, in an early-morning operation that occurred after the pair were dragged away in their underwear and kept away in a cemetery.

Several people broke into the home of Zhang Hongwei in the small hours of August 8 in Xinzheng city, putting the couple in a car and taking them to a public graveyard where they were kept for four hours, state news agency Xinhua said.

In a rare admission, Xinzheng authorities confirmed media reports that a house was forcibly torn down in the early hours of last Friday. They are investigating the case and are negotiating with the homeowner.

The local government, however, did not provide the identities of those who carried out the demolition.

The house was the only structure standing in a zone cleared for a subway line.

Zhang described the people as “in their twenties” and speaking with “local accents”, according to Xinhua.

Zhang said a dozen people stood guard over them at the cemetery, threatening to kill them if they moved, the report said.

Once they were freed, they went back to their house, but found it reduced to rubble, with all their belongings buried in piles of debris.

Pictures of a couple surveying the wreckage, and shots of a woman weeping, went viral on mainland social media on Monday.

Having lost his house, but unwilling to give up his land to the authorities, Zhang has set up a makeshift tent at the demolition site.

The Xinzheng government said in a bulletin that Zhang’s 420-square-metre house was built without the local government’s approval.

The house was the only one standing in a resettled area that was cleared for the Zhengzhou subway’s Line 2, which is under construction. Neighbouring Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan province.

Zhang asked for “hefty compensation” and refused to move, which delayed the construction for more than 20 days, the bulletin said.

In a subsequent bulletin, the reference to Zhang asking for hefty compensation was deleted.

The local government said the demolition order against Zhang’s house was then transferred to village authorities.

Zhang told Xinhua that the government only offered compensation of 690 yuan (HK$868) per square metre – far lower than market prices in the town of 5,000 per square metre.

Internet users reacted angrily to the incident, calling some local officials “bandits”.

“Rogues. Should the couple be taken away [half-]naked and left in a cemetery at midnight even when they asked for hefty compensation?” a lawyer named Yuan Yulai wrote on his Weibo account.

The official People’s Daily newspaper also posted a message on its official microblog that forced demolitions violated laws and should not be allowed.