At least five evictees were hospitalized Thursday following clashes between police, hired demolition gangs and local residents in China's southern island province of Hainan, amid an ongoing confrontation that residents warned could lead to further violence.
Government-hired gangs fired pepper spray and threw stones at local residents of Qingtian village near Haitangwan township near the southern resort city of Sanya after they tried to stop the demolition of their homes on Wednesday, residents said.
"The demolition gang surrounded the villagers and dragged all the people and their belongings out of their houses," a villager surnamed Zhou said on Thursday.
"Those who refused to leave were beaten up, and chased out with chilli pepper spray," he said. "They also threw rocks at the villagers."
"Five or six people were injured ... They are still in the hospital," he said.
Zhou said the government was out to make a huge profit from the sale of the land to a developer.
"They just took a fancy to our plot of land and they plan to invest in a property development here. The authorities are doing everything they can to help, clearing the area of houses by force," he said.
A second resident surnamed Hong said the demolition gang had ignored all pleas from local residents.
"There had been no attempt at consultation before they showed up here to demolish [our home," Hong said. "They said they were illegal, then they knocked them down."
Local sources said around half the homes in Qingtian had now been razed to the ground.
"I think if they come back to demolish more houses, there'll be a riot," Hong said.
A resident surnamed Mao said local people had gathered at the entrance to the village to hold off the demolition gang.
"We didn't want them to enter the village," a resident surnamed Mao said.
"But they came in, and demolished the houses as soon as they set eyes on them," he said. "They are going to use [the land] for a residential property development."
Mao said local residents were unhappy with the rate of 10,000 yuan per mu (U.S. $1,650 per one-sixth acre) of compensation paid by the government, as other villages nearby had received higher rates to allow for skyrocketing property values.
"Everyone in the village came out ... but a lot of them were at work, and there were only the old and young to hold off [the demolition gang]," he said.
"Half of our homes were demolished."
A teacher at the Qingtian elementary school said the government had demolished people's homes before they had completed alternative housing promised under the eviction deal.
"These were all the actions of the government," the teacher said. "They have already requisitioned some of the land, but there are issues with how much compensation they're paying."
"They haven't built the temporary housing yet, but ... what use is temporary housing anyway? They haven't built the proper accommodation yet, and we have yet to move in," the teacher said.
An official who answered the phone at the Haitangwan township management committee said the homes demolished on Tuesday were all illegally constructed.
"They are just trying to extort a bit of money [out of us]," the official said. "The homes they lived in before were pretty run-down, messy, dirty, below standard, with continual power outages."
"They even had to get their own water from a well, and there was trash piled up to the sky. These were all illegal buildings, built three or four stories high with no reinforcement."
However, a third Qingtian resident denied the official's account.
"No, we didn't," he said. "We just like a rural lifestyle, and they were just regular homes, one or two stories high."
"Why did they have to come over here and knock them down?"
Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.