Two Deaths in Forced Demolition

Chinese residents say workers hired to demolish buildings on disputed land act with impunity.
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Two demolition-related deaths occurred in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Sept. 19, 2011.
Two demolition-related deaths occurred in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Sept. 19, 2011.

Two deaths in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Monday have been linked to demolition of homes, according to local residents.

Li Jinxiu, a 65-year-old woman, jumped from the fourth floor of her housing apartment complex to protest a forced demolition of the building, neighbors said Tuesday. She was rushed to the nearby Wuhan No. 11 Hospital, but succumbed to her injuries the same day.

“Yes, the woman died over the demolition,” one of the woman’s neighbors, a resident of the Baguxindun community of Jianghan district, said in an interview Tuesday.

“Her house is a four-story building with the first floor rented out to businesses.”

“The developer offered a compensation of 3,800 yuan (U.S. $600) per square meter. But the price for the newly completed commercial residences in our area is now at least 12,000 yuan (U.S. $1,880) per square meter,” said the anonymous neighbor.

Li had refused to move out because she considered the compensation to be unacceptably low, she said.

On Sunday evening, the local government-backed developer brought several men to Li’s house, attempting to force the elderly woman to sign the compensation agreement, the neighbor said.

Li jumped out of her window the next morning. Her body was taken away by police, and kept at the funeral hall in Jianghan district where authorities refused requests from the family to take it back for mourning.

A phone call on Tuesday to the Baguxindun police station was answered by an officer who confirmed the tragic death of the woman but declined to provide any details.

Second death

Another demolition-related death occurred in the same community on Monday, a separate resident said.

“Apparently a man was accidentally hit by a bulldozer while walking on the street,” the resident said.

“I wish the central government would investigate the recent deaths in our community, because they are all related to forced relocation,” said the man who asked to remain anonymous.

“I don’t think the death was accidental,” said another local resident surname Li. “How could the bulldozer driver not see something as large as a person?”

“The driver and other demolition workers are all gangsters in cahoots with the police,” Li said.

A woman, also surnamed Li, said the demolition workers had been hired by the local government.

“In our district government, there is a so-called ‘demolition and relocation office’ which is in charge of these things. They hired workers to do the demolition. Even when they create trouble, like causing a death, the government office still won’t punish them.”

Private property enjoys theoretical protection under China's Constitution, but ownership of land in China ultimately rests with the state.

Residents often complain that existing leasehold contracts are 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, according to official statistics, many of which are protests or sit-ins linked to forced evictions, allegations of corruption, and disputes over rural land sales.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written by Ping Chen.





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