An elderly woman in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi died after being trapped in the rubble as bulldozers destroyed her family home, local residents told RFA.
Hu Xianglan, who was in her eighties, was trapped in the rubble as bulldozers moved in on her family home near Jiangxi’s Wuzhou city, according to photos and eyewitness accounts.
By the time her body was retrieved from the rubble, it was unrecognizable, a local resident surnamed Huo told RFA.
“This happened between Dongxiang and Yangqiao where we live,” Huo said. “She was related to my sister-in-law, who’s from Qiuyuan village.”
“When the forced evictions were over, they found that she had died the next day when they were clearing up the rubble. Her body had been torn into several pieces by the mechanical digger.”
Huo said all of the houses in the neighborhood had been demolished without the agreement of residents in what local officials said was a “village improvement” project.
“The villagers were all unwilling, so the government … called in some local muscle, police and ambulances, and said, ‘If you make a move, we’ll beat you up and then send you to the hospital,’” Huo told RFA in an interview on Thursday, a week after the demolitions took place.
Dozens of local residents and family members had gathered outside local government offices demanding an explanation in the days after Hu’s death, but the government dispatched around 300 police officers to seal off the area, he said.
Local officials had later paid out 900,000 yuan (U.S. $130,700) in compensation to Hu’s family, he added.
“The government has been acting like a mafia organization with this village improvement campaign,” he said. “They don’t even discuss it with people first. They knock down your house whether you like it or not, and if you complain about it, they beat you up.”
“Ordinary people can’t win against the government,” he said.
An official who answered the phone at the Dongxiang district government said an investigation is under way into Hu’s death, but denied it was linked to forced eviction and demolitions.
“How can you say that?” the official said. “We have to wait for the results of the police investigation. We have already set up an investigation team, and we are investigating it too.”
Official bludgeoned to death
Elsewhere in Jiangxi, relatives of an elderly man accused of killing an official during a forced demolition have been placed under tight surveillance.
Police in Ganzhou village near Ganzhou city detained Ming Jingguo after he was accused of bludgeoning local People’s Congress representative Zhuo Yu with a hoe on March 17.
Local media said the coroner’s report gave the cause of death as “multiple blunt force trauma" resulting in a smashed skull.
On March 20, lawyers Guo Lianhui and Liu Wenhua were prevented from meeting with Ming, who is being held at the Nankang District Detention Center in Ganzhou, Human Rights in China reported.
He faces charges of “intentional homicide,” which could result in the death penalty.
A source close to the family said Ming’s son Ming Bangwei is being held under house arrest and has had his cell phone confiscated by police.
“The authorities have him under house arrest, and they are watching his every move,” the source said. “He’s not allowed to leave the local area.”
“If past cases are anything to go by, the authorities will be looking to make his relatives disappear outright.”
Ming Bangwei had been prevented from traveling to Beijing to find a lawyer for his father, the source said.
Fatal shooting over demolition
Last November, authorities in the northern city of Shijiazhuang executed Jia Jinglong, who fatally shot a local official with a nail gun in protest over the forced demolition of his home, in spite of a massive public campaign for a reprieve.
Jia’s execution came after his death sentence was reviewed and approved by the Supreme People's Court in Beijing.
In a case that became emblematic of widespread anger over social injustice in China, the highest court ruled that Jia's crime was "extremely serious," and merited the death penalty.
Jia had pleaded guilty from the start to shooting his former village chief He Jianhua in the head with a nail gun, and to planning the attack, including his getaway vehicle.
He was convicted of intentional homicide and sentenced to death, and also deprived of his political rights for life on Nov. 24, 2015, by the Shijiazhuang court, and his appeal to the provincial-level court was rejected last May.
Lawyers said the Supreme Court's review of Jia Jinglong’s case didn't take into consideration the allegations of illegal and corrupt dealings linked to village land sales and forced demolitions, and ran counter to current policies requiring caution when applying the death penalty.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.