CHINESE MAN SETS FIRE TO SELF ON TIANANMEN SQUARE


2003-09-16
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Anhui farmer in protest at relocation plans

A disgruntled farmer set fire to himself on Beijing's Tiananmen Square in protest at government plans to demolish his house, RFA reports.

China's official Xinhua news agency identified the man as Zhu Zhengliang, a farmer from Qingyang County in the eastern province of Anhui. Zhu had travelled up from his hometown by train the previous day, arriving outside Tiananmen Gate early Monday, it said.

The 45-year-old Zhu "ignited the gasoline he had splashed on his body at the Jinshui Bridge, which is in front of the Tiananmen Rostrum," Xinhua said. "The police on duty extinguished the fire."

Workers are currently preparing the square for the Oct. 1 National Day holiday, when hundreds of thousands of Chinese visit the vast paved space, decked out with flower arrangements, banners, and exhibits trumpeting China's successes.

Zhu, whose wife sat beside him as he ignited the gasoline on the bridge, suffered burns to the back and arms and was sent to hospital for treatment, a police spokesperson said.

"The reason that he attempted to burn himself at the square was that he was not satisfied with the local government's decision to relocate his family to another place," Xinhua quoted the spokesperson as saying. Zhu was stopped by police on duty on the square.

The incident recalled a self-immolation attempt by five members of the banned Falungong spiritual group on Tiananmen Square on Jan. 23, 2001, when they attempted a group suicide to protest the government's heavy-handed efforts to ban Falungong.

The requisition of land by local governments and state-owned enterprises in recent years has become one of the most controversial topics in both urban and rural areas as new roads, factories, and housing and office developments have sprung up nationwide.

Local residents evicted from their homes often complain of poor government compensation and forceful removals, while many accuse the government of cashing in on the real estate market at their expense.

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