Workers Destroy Homes, Beat Owners

A group of hired hands demolish a farming village in central China to make way for urban development.
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Zhutun villagers sit in a lean-to after their home was demolished.
Zhutun villagers sit in a lean-to after their home was demolished.
Photo courtesy of a villager

Demolition crews working for local authorities have attacked a farming community in China’s central Henan province, destroying houses and beating homeowners, witnesses said.

The Sunday attack on Zhutun village, an enclosed community surrounded by urban areas in the Zhongyuan district of Zhengzhou, the regional capital, came as part of a government bid to raze more than 2,000 houses for an urban development project.

It followed a similar attack in February in which authorities stormed a village home, beating and dragging away the homeowners and destroying their property.

“Forced demolition has now happened again,” a villager surnamed Jin told RFA on Monday.

“The attackers wounded the owner of one house, dragging him away and dumping him in a distant suburb,” he said.

“The victim has been hospitalized with two broken ribs and severe wounds to his left eye. He has four stitches in his hand,” Jin added.

The attack took place at 1:18 a.m. local time on April 22 when several hundred workers broke into the village, bringing heavy demolition equipment with them, said a second villager, surnamed Zhao.

“They were all wearing masks, so we could see them clearly,” he said.

'People stormed in'

In a separate interview, the beating victim, Zhao Tielai, recalled the assault, speaking to RFA by phone from his hospital bed on Monday.

“When I heard someone knocking on my door, I got up to open it with my shoes still off,” he said. “Suddenly, people stormed in and attacked me, knocking me unconscious.”

“When I woke up, I was lying on the ground in the middle of nowhere out in the suburbs.”

“Now I am in a hospital with an injury to the cornea of my left eye and two broken ribs,” Zhao said.

Residents of Zhutun have described their village as formerly prosperous, but say that since 2010 most of the area’s 2,300 houses have been demolished to make way for urban development.

Last May, authorities mobilized hundreds of workers to forcibly demolish a number of homes, injuring and detaining scores of homeowners who refused to leave.

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, according to official statistics.

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 Ping Chen.

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