A demolition order that sparked violent clashes in eastern China in which two people were killed has reopened a debate about the practice of local authorities hiring private firms to tear down people’s homes. Police in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, said they had arrested a man accused of driving his car into a crowd after he clashed with contractors earlier this week. The force said on its Weibo account on Thursday that the householder, Wei Gang, and his former wife, Wang Qin, had tried to stop the contractors who had been hired by the authorities in Hangji town to demolish an “illegal” property that occupied a plot near the river. The police said that Wei had tried to film workers from a local demolition firm tearing down the house, but the phone had been snatched out of his hands and thrown to the ground. Wei is then accused of losing his temper and driving his car into the group, killing one person on the spot and injuring nine. One of the injured died later in hospital. Wei was then dragged from the car and beaten up before police arrived. Knife-wielding man drives into crowd, kills 2 in east China He was detained at the scene with three contractors, Tao Ran, from a local demolition company, and two of its employees, Zhang Zhiyong and Yan Jin. Police also claimed that Tao had hired around 20 people “to maintain order” and had told them to smash the house’s glass doors, empty its contents and destroy the security cameras in front of it. Wang, the householder’s former wife, insisted in an interview with Everyday People magazine that the house was not illegal and Wang had the proper ownership documents. She also said the family had not reached an agreement over compensation, so the order to demolish the house was itself illegal. Wang could not be reached for comment on Friday and the case is still under investigation. There have been a string of violent clashes over demolition orders in China in recent times, which have raised important questions about property rights and the limits of government power. Chinese man detained over attack on doctors who refused to give his wife a caesarean In 2009, a woman in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, died after setting herself on fire in an effort to stop her home being demolished. The case, along with other similar incidents, prompted a change to the law to strengthen homeowners’ rights. Following the latest incident, a commentator for Shanghai-based news portal Thepaper.cn questioned the legality of hiring private companies to carry out demolition work and criticised the violence that such operations cause. “Smashing glass doors, moving items from the house, destroying security cams, breaking phones … these violent actions in the name of ‘government permission’ not only infringe on people’s rights but also dent the government’s authority and credibility,” the anonymous commentator wrote.