Dozens of unidentified men severely beat two teenagers—who suffered broken teeth and head cuts—and an adult as they moved to demolish the homes of several residents in Chongwen district in Beijing this week, residents said.
About 60 to 80 men carried out the forced eviction using bulldozers on Wednesday without any official warning or legal process, said local resident Liu Fengchi.
"They held us to the ground while they started to demolish our homes; there were two kids who were taken off and beaten in the courtyard," said Liu, whose home had been in an alleyway near the Ciqikou area.
"They beat them till they lost two teeth, and they had to have several stitches in their head and ear."
The injured were all from the family of a widow, Li Xiuyun, she said.
"I told them they should bring out our belongings, that it wouldn't do to demolish [our homes] in this way," Liu said. "They said these were the actions of the government, but when I asked them who was from the government, no one came forward."
According to Li Xiuyun, the authorities had begun demolishing apartment buildings in the district, ostensibly because they were dangerous, but Liu and her husband had campaigned for many years against the plans.
Li's son Li Yunge said he had been pinned to the ground and beaten by a group of men until there was blood running down his face, although he hung on doggedly to his camera.
"Then they started to demolish the buildings, saying the government had held a meeting [on Tuesday] and officials higher up had told them to demolish them," Li Yunge said, adding that his sister and mother were the other two injured people.
"There were about 70 or 80 people," he said.
Land acquisition for development, often resulting in lucrative property deals for local officials, sparks thousands of protests by local communities across China every month, many of which escalate into clashes with police.
In recent years, property owners all over China have complained that existing leasehold contracts are being flouted by local officials and developers keen to swell revenue coffers with lucrative land deals.
China already sees thousands of “mass incidents” across the country every year, official statistics suggest.
Many of these are protests or sit-ins linked to forced evictions, allegations of corruption, or disputes over land sales.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.