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Doubts emerge over policeman killing of farmer in China land dispute

Official report into farmer shot dead by officer while he tried to stop bulldozers destroying his rice field does not hold water, says lawyer

Members of the public have expressed grave doubts about claims by officials from a city in Liaoning that a police officer who shot dead a farmer involved a land-grab dispute was acting in self-defence.

The tragedy happened in Panjin's Xingloutai district on Friday morning when the family of 36-year-old Wang Shujie was trying to stop two bulldozers from destroying their rice field, ready to be harvested in days.

The government said it had to make way for a 5 kilometre road to a newly built housing development but the family refused to give up the 1,400 square metres of land because of the low compensation offered.

An investigation report by Panjin prosecutors on Sunday said Wang's family had been obstructing the building of the road after their demand for higher compensation for a house 304 metres away from the construction area was turned down.

Construction workers called police after the family poured petrol on them and threatened to ignite it.

They also poured petrol over police officer Zhang Yan and attacked him with an axe and sickle, the report said. Zhang's left hand and wrist were badly injured.

He issued verbal warnings, used pepper spray and fired a warning shot, but Wang Zaiyuan , the father of Wang Shujie, did not back away. Instead, he attempted to seize Zhang's arm.

Wang Zaiyuan was shot in the left leg during the struggle and Wang Shujie set himself on fire and rushed towards Zhang.

Zhang only fired shots at Wang Shujie, killing him, "when his life was threatened", the report said.

"Zhang Yan was performing in the line of duty and the use of the gun was in accordance with the relevant law," it said.

But the report has met with widespread criticism and scepticism about whether the shots were necessary and whether the investigation was impartial.

"The investigation does not hold water," said Wang Cailiang , a director at the Beijing Liang Cai law firm.

"A document by the Ministry of Public Security last year forbade police officers from participating in forced evictions and said that what the police officers should do was stop the bulldozers first and intervene to stop confrontation, but in this case the officers were acting for the construction team."

The officer could have retreated and avoided confrontation. But instead, he fired six shots, which were totally unnecessary, Wang Cailiang said.

He said an independent investigation should be held.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Claims policeman acted in self-defence disputed