Anger Over Night Demolitions

Residents of a workers' apartment building belonging to a state-owned company in southwest China are reeling after their homes were demolished in the middle of the night, according to online accounts.

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Nanning_demolitions3 Former residents of a workers' dormitory in Nanning, Guangxi, rescue belongings and pets after a forced demolition of their homes by night.
Anonymous volunteer.
HONG KONG—Chinese netizens reacted with anger and dismay over online reports of demolition gangs in the southwestern province of Guangxi who dragged residents from their beds during the night before demolishing their apartment building.

A report together with photos describing the demolitions was posted on several popular bulletin board sites, garnering angry comments from readers Wednesday.

"I really have no words," commented one. "What a society we live in," said another. "Ordinary people have no power against these bandits," said another.

In two separate incidents reported on Nov. 8 and Nov. 10, witnesses described the cries and screams of residents who were forced out of bed in their underwear without time even to gather their possessions.

'Woken by screams'

Private video shot by a bystander during demolitions on Nov. 8 and 10, 2008, in Nanning, Guangxi province.

"I was woken up by the sound of people crying and screaming, and the rumble of machinery," said one report, apparently written by someone living near the Guangxi Nanning Foreign Trade Co. in in the provincial capital.

"I took up my camera and hurried to the scene to shoot some footage. There were 40-50 guys of about 17 or 18 years old with iron bars, hanging around some 50 meters from the scene, stopping anyone from getting across the intersection and getting anywhere near the scene. So I was only able to shoot this video from a distance," the Nov. 8 account said.

He said former residents of the workers' dormitory building, who had all held legal documentation entitling them to use the property, told him that around 300-400 people of indeterminate identity had battered down their doors at 1 a.m. carrying steel bars and chopping knives.

"They forced the remaining 27 families in the buildings out of their beds from the middle of sleep," the account said. "Some of the residents were still in their underwear and pleaded to be allowed to go back into the building and collect their things, but were refused."

An employee who answered the phone at the state-owned Guangxi Nanning Foreign Trade Co. confirmed the demolition had taken place.

"The demolition is already complete," he said. "But I don’t know if all other issues are resolved or not."

Workers' apartments

He confirmed that the residents in the demolished buildings were all employees of the company.

And an officer at the Nahong police station, which serves the Xiyili area where the apartments were located, didn't deny the reports of violence, saying that 10-20 residents had lodged reports with the police.

"We are still investigating the case," he said, declining to give further details.

The author of the online eyewitness report said he called the police twice, and that they hung up the phone the second time.

Another employee of the foreign trade transportation company surnamed Lao said the people who were forced out of their homes in the early morning are all low-income laid-off or retired workers.

"This is probably the doing of the developers who are planning to put commercial buildings there," he said.

Lucrative property deals

"I don’t know the details, as our management won’t let our ordinary workers know all the facts. There was talk of the developers compensating those who can't afford to buy new homes, but I am not sure if this is the arrangement."

Lao said the demolitions would never have occurred without the agreement of head office, however.

An employee who answered the phone at the company's head office said: "The company you mentioned is a subordinate branch and I don’t know the details. Usually we don’t get involved in things which are not directly related to us."

Forced demolitions and their ensuing protests are increasingly common across China, as local officials and developers sign lucrative property deals, often with scant compensation and little discussion with those who will be made homeless.

Legal challenges to such developments are rarely effective, and complaints lodged after the event can be ignored for decades, with those trying to pursue them frequently monitored and detained.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated, researched, and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and Chen Ping. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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