Police detained 15 villagers Tuesday after they blocked a national highway in southern China’s Jiangxi province to protest the alleged murder of a fellow farmer at a nearby land expropriation site, according to eyewitnesses and the dead man’s son.
Farmer Xie Shaochun was run over by an excavator on Monday after several men held him under the vehicle’s continuous tracks at a construction site in Luokeng village, in Gan Xian county’s Maodian township, eyewitnesses said.
Xie had been trying to stop construction workers from filling up his fish pond, out of anger over lack of proper compensation, they said.
Local officials, however, said Xie had been run over while obstructing construction work.
The next day, infuriated villagers blocked National Highway No. 323, but armed police soon intervened.
“Roughly 300 or 400 people went to the highway to protest, but the authorities immediately dispatched several trucks carrying special police in camouflage uniforms to the scene,” a villager surnamed Liu told RFA.
“Early Tuesday morning, the police began to beat up our villagers, causing us to shriek horribly. They took 15 villagers away,” Liu said.
“At 7:00 a.m., the armed police and special police took the body of Xie away and then tampered with the crime scene. They also transported the excavator to an unknown place,” he said.
Xie Mingrong, the dead farmer’s son, said authorities had been of no assistance.
“The government didn’t give us any explanation for the incident,” the younger Xie said on Tuesday.
“My mother is now in the hospital. She was led there this morning by several people with her hands tied up,” he said.
Other villagers said that following Xie’s death, his wife tried to prevent the police from taking away the body, but was forced away. They said Xie Shaozong, the dead man’s brother, and two of his nephews were all detained by police.
Xie’s son said authorities banned journalists from reporting at the crime scene.
“On Monday night, two reporters seemingly from Jiangxi TV station came to our village to investigate the incident, but they were beaten up by police,” he said.
“The police also destroyed the film that the reporters carried with them.”
On Tuesday, an employee who answered the phone at the Maodian township office confirmed the protests, but denied that villagers had been detained.
“They blocked the highway for three hours. But no one was arrested,” he said.
When asked where authorities had taken Xie’s body, the employee said it was being held at the Gan Xian county funeral hall.
A villager, who asked to remain anonymous, said Xie's death occurred on Monday afternoon.
“The time was around 4:00 p.m. … when Xie was deliberately pushed under the caterpillar tracks, and killed. There was a photo taken at the moment of his death,” the villager told RFA on Tuesday.
The gruesome photo has since been posted online.
“There happened to be two old women working in a nearby field. They witnessed the whole thing. They even heard Xie screaming for help,” the villager added.
“This is blatant murder. They hired gangsters [to take care of Xie],” he said, denouncing the act.
Villager Liu said Xie was held under the tracks by “five or six men.”
Xie’s death was first exposed Tuesday on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging site in China.
The news was later confirmed the same day by jxcn.cn, a news website managed by the Jiangxi provincial government, which said Xie had been run over while obstructing construction work.
A local official, according to the report, called for an investigation.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.