Police in China's Wuhan Hold Man Over Demolition Murders

Shu Lifa's wife says he lost control of his emotions after months of camping in a shipping container on the ruins of his former home.
By Gao Feng
2021-07-19
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Police in China's Wuhan Hold Man Over Demolition Murders The shipping container used for six months by Shu Lifa and his wife Zhang Yuezhen after their home was forcibly demolished is shown in an undated photo.
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Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hubei are holding a man on suspicion of murdering two officials following clashes linked to a forced demolition in the provincial capital, Wuhan.

Shu Lifa is being held in the Wuchang Detention Center after being criminally detained on suspicion of the "intentional homicide" of Xiong Zhiping, a staff member at the Wuchang District Old Town Reconstruction Project, and Sun Yi, the director of the Binjiang Business District, which directs the work of the local demolition bureau.

The clashes came after Xiong and other officials started beating Shu after arriving to survey his ruined home in Wubei village in Xujiapeng, Wuchang district, Wuhan earlier this month.

Shu, 66, and his wife Zhang Yuezhen had been camping out in a container in the ruins of their former home following a forced demolition in January, on which they hold a private property lease, refusing to leave in the absence of any resettlement arrangements or compensation.

Eventually, the authorities claimed to have obtained the necessary permit in April, and returned to Shu's home on July 12. Shu started taking photos of them, Zhang Yuezhen told RFA.

"One of the highest-ranking leaders in the demolition office saw him doing that and snatched [the phone] away, and that's how it started," she said.

"He was beaten to the ground by the demolition office people, and one of them even took a brick and went to hit him with it."

"So [Shu] ran home and got a knife, telling them to wait there."

Xiong died from blood loss at the scene. Shu then took the knife to the demolition bureau, where he also attacked Sun.

"That woman had come to our house for Lunar New Year, but she was always threatening us, saying they would requisition our home," Zhang said. "She did it all the time."

"He caught sight of her," she said, adding that Sun also died at the scene.

Zhang said Shu likely lost control of his emotions due to the stress of living in a container for several months.

"Our home was demolished on Jan. 30," she said. "They threw out our furniture and everything we owned."

"We have been living in the ruins in a container ... and nobody has bothered to ask how we're doing," Zhang said. "They refuse to discuss it with us."

"I actually lodged a complaint. We would have left if they'd negotiated [a settlement] with us," she said.

'It's pretty barbarous'

A Hubei journalist who declined to be named said Shu and Zhang should have been resettled if the land they occupied was needed for redevelopment.

"National demolition laws expressly stipulate that the authorities must first arrange for residential resettlement and also a compensation deal before demolition can take place," the journalist said.

"But what they actually do is demolish homes and take no responsibility: it's pretty barbarous," he said.

The incident in Wuhan comes amid simmering public anger over the use of violent forced evictions, often with no warning or due process, by local governments to reclaim land for lucrative redevelopment or speculation.

In May 2015, authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu handed down an eight-year prison term to a retired People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier for attacking members of a demolition gang who came to raze his home.

Fan Mugen was found guilty of "intentional wounding" by the Suzhou Intermediate People's Court following his trial and ordered to pay civil compensation.

Fan allegedly attacked two members of a demolition gang that came to evict his family from their home on Dec. 3, 2013, and who he said beat up his wife. The two men later died.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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