A local government in eastern China has denied allegations that it was at fault after a man burned to death in a fire at his home while demolition workers were knocking it down, a newspaper reported. Officials in Pingyi county near Linyi in Shandong province released a statement on Wednesday saying that Zhang Jimin, 46, had bought nine litres of petrol last week with the intention of killing himself, The Beijing News reported. The local authority plans to demolish the homes of over 700 households in the farmer’s village and he was in dispute over the level of compensation offered for his house. Several villagers who witnessed the fire on Monday said dozens of unknown people surrounded the house at noon on Monday and stopped others from going into the building while demolition machinery pulled down its walls. A villager was quoted in a previous report by the newspaper as saying that he saw the house catch fire after bottles containing yellow liquid were thrown inside. The victim’s cousin, Zhang Jiyou, had earlier told the Southern Metropolis News that officials had repeatedly tried and failed to persuade the home owner to accept the compensation offer during the past week. He said a group of men, led by town government employees, had already started tearing down his cousin’s home when he arrived at the scene. “When I arrived Zhang Jimin had locked the door from the inside,” he was quoted as saying. “Soon afterwards the house was on fire. There was a gas tank in the house. We don’t know whether he had been forced to set himself on fire or if it was the demolition team that started the blaze.” The local government had released a statement on Monday night saying that the fire was an accident. Disputes over land seizures or the level of compensation offered to make way for development projects regularly lead to violent clashes in China.