Jiangsu Demolitions Spark Clashes

Clashes erupt in eastern China over property demolitions and forced evictions.

Dongtai Bridge 303 Protester injured by hired thugs at Dongtai bridge.

HONG KONG—Residents in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu said several people are still in hospital after two separate clashes with the authorities over disputed demolitions.

Residents of Xuefu Road East in Dongtai city said around a dozen people were injured in clashes after security personnel and officials came to demolish a road bridge.

A local resident surnamed Zhang said the authorities had issued no official notice of the planned demolition work, which would remove a key link between the community and the city, making transportation more difficult for residents.

"They just came here in their buses ready to knock down the bridge. There were 50 or 60 hired thugs," he said.

"When the local residents came out in protest, they were told by these thugs that they had already paid the municipal emergency services not to answer any calls from people there, and that anyone who got in their way would be beaten up."

They used force to demolish our houses. Some people have been beaten up too."

Wuxi resident

"One of our neighbors was ... injured and there are still four or five people still receiving medical care. There was a crowd of about 1,000 people watching the whole thing," Zhang said.

"When the police arrived from the emergency call, they took the side of the thugs. I told them they couldn't do that, but they threatened to take down my details if I carried on standing there."

Nighttime demolition

The bridge demolition work was finished in the early hours of Sunday.

"They knocked down the bridge in the middle of the night," another resident said.

"It is now very inconvenient for us to go anywhere. Some people are going to petition the municipal government about this."

An official from the Dongtai municipal housing and construction department surnamed Zhu said the route into the neighborhood had been cut off in order to improve security in the area.

"The developer has made arrangements to build a new bridge from the main street of the community ... [The question of consultation] is one for the developer," he added.

An officer who answered the phone at the local police station denied any clashes had taken place.

"Regarding your question about violence, we didn't see any," the officer said. "No one was hurt at all. There were no clashes."

He added: "The demolition of the bridge hasn't harmed the lives of local residents in any way. The main thing is that they are asking for compensation from the government. It has all been arranged. The government has agreed. No one is destroying this bridge just for economic gain. This was all documented."

Wuxi evictions

Meanwhile, residents of Wuxi, also in Jiangsu, said the authorities there mobilized several hundred people last week to forcefully evict several families from their homes in Zhaoxia New Village.

They demolished homes and injured protesters, residents said.

The homes of Ma Chengzhong, Fan Gaozhong, and Ren Jingqiang were demolished by a team including municipal law enforcement officers, or chengguan, police SWAT team members, and hired muscle, according to one of the evictees.

"Our doors and windows were smashed, and about a dozen people carrying batons broke into my home," evictee Fan Gaozhong said.

"They sprayed some kind of gas which had a sharp smell. They carried us out and beat us up. I had three cuts on my head and had a bruise on my leg."

Fan said the men wore the uniform of chengguan.

The eviction team leader, surnamed Niu, initially admitted to being the team leader, then denied it when the RFA reporter's identity was made clear.

Ma Chengzhong, another evictee, was severely beaten and hospitalized with head injuries. He was unable to give an interview, although he answered his phone from his hospital bed.

All three residents were forced to sign an eviction agreement.

Fan Gaozhong inherited the house from his ancestors and possesses the title deed as well as the complete set of property rights documents. But he said what he would receive in return was a so-called "economy home" which had no title deed.

Common occurrence

"More than a dozen people broke into my house," he said. "At least you ought to identify yourselves. You can't just smash the doors and windows without speaking a single word to me."

Residents who were beaten during the forced eviction reported the incident to the Jiangsu Provincial Public Security Bureau and the Ministry of Public Security, but no one ever answered their calls, he said.

Another Wuxi resident surnamed Ma said he and a dozen others had been injured, with three still hospitalized. "They used force to demolish our houses. Some people have been beaten up, too," Ma said.

"They had about 400 people, mostly chengguan. I was beaten up and fainted at the scene. The officials said nothing and smashed our doors. When they rushed into the house, they just started beating people up. Four of them ran into my house and my eyes are still swollen. My head was hit."

A chengguan official, contacted by telephone, confirmed the demolitions but said she knew nothing about beatings.

Forced eviction is becoming increasingly common across China, even in cases where local residents hold full paperwork entitling them to ownership and residence in their property.

The central government last year passed a law aimed at upholding private property rights. But local officials and their business partners wield too much power, including controlling local law enforcement personnel, for it to have much effect, evictees say.

Hu Daqiu and some of his family members in Yuegezhuang village in Beijing's Fengtai district have moved onto the roof of their home and threatened to commit suicide should they be evicted.

"They sent several removal trucks over here. We can't leave our house now, otherwise it will be torn down," he said from the roof of his home.

Hu Daqiu said the family had not accepted the compensation offered by the property developer.

"We understand that life is precious, but since we can't protect our house, we'd rather die along with our house," he said.

"The compensation is inadequate, and there is nothing we can buy with that money," he said.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao and Qiao Long and in Cantonese by Lillian Cheung. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Additional translation by Jia Yuan. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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