Officials in the coastal Jiangsu province have denied conspiring with a developer to intimidate villagers into agreeing to forced demolitions after a video clip showing alleged brutal treatment of residents went viral.
The full video , which emerged on the internet on Saturday, is a series of edited clips allegedly showing Suqian’s Diche village party secretary Zhang Zaixian teaming up with thugs to physically bully villagers into complying with his demolition plans.
The video allegedly shows the gang brutally roughing up locals and forcing a school owner to sign a consent letter for the demolition of a local private school.
The clip was made by the school’s owner according to the video’s description. In the video he says that Zhang ordered over 200 thugs to illegally detain his school staff and demolish the school on August 10.
“We are fighting [the local government] with blood everyday. Any righteous man please save us,” a subtitle of the video clip reads.
The video clip, particularly a scene where several men are seen throwing an elderly man into a small pond and then forcing a young man’s head under the water, has sparked widespread outrage online. Many internet users have called for a thorough investigation into the claims made in the video.
A district official of Suqian on Sunday denied the government’s involvement in the clash, calling it an economic dispute between the school owner and local villagers, Southern Metropolis Daily said on Monday.
According to officials’ accounts, local teacher Li Shijin built the school in 2003 on a 11.6-acre land rented from villagers for an annual fee of 28000 yuan. They claimed that as the school closed down three years ago and the rental fee barely came to half its market price amid soaring land prices, villagers resorted to violence in their eagerness to retake the land.
The elderly and two other individuals roughly treated in the video were the tenant’s family members, the official told the newspaper. He said they provoked a row after they tried to block a bulldozer operated by land owners to clean the demolished school’s ruins.
Police said the violent confrontations did not result in serious injuries, but promised to further investigate the incident, the report said.