Man Dies as Chinese Government Razes Uyghur Homes


2004-04-08
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An elderly man in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang has been crushed to death during demolition work after he refused to move from an area scheduled for redevelopment by the municipal government, which local people say is acting illegally in its use of property, RFA's Mandarin service reports.

The man was crushed on March 12 in Keshi city in the mostly Muslim region when his house collapsed during demolition work, which continued in the face of fears for his safety on the part of the demolition crew, an eyewitness told RFA.

"Before demolishing the house, the truck driver said he quit, but the boss insisted, and threatened him, saying, if you quit, I won't pay you for the work you've already done," the local resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, said.

"After a while, he went back to work. He had only been working for a little while when the house collapsed in on itself. It so happened that there was an old man inside the house. He was crushed to death," the eyewitness said.

"I took a look when I passed by this morning. The house had collapsed. He was killed on the spot. [The house] is three to four hundred meters from the hospital. By the time he arrived, he was already dead," the resident said, adding that officials from the city construction office had ordered the man to leave two days previously.

A nurse at a Keshi hospital confirmed the local resident's account. "When he entered the hospital, the patient was already dead," the nurse told RFA correspondent Han Dongfang.

Local police said the man, whose name was not released, had been warned repeatedly of the eviction order from his house, which they said was the property of the municipal government construction bureau. "We talked to him about moving out, but he still refused," an officer at the Yawage district police station in Keshi told RFA. "Everyone else moved out. He was the only person left. He simply refused to move out. Finally, the wall collapsed while the tractor was operating," the officer said.

The officer — ; who said the man had been given 'a full week's notice' to move — ; said he "loved making trouble." "The reason why he didn't move out is because he wanted money so he could find a place on his own. In fact, they already arranged a building for him. He demanded money so he could look for a place on his own."

However, the local resident interviewed by RFA said that no alternative accommodation had been provided for the man. Police said they had made one arrest following the man's death, but declined to give further details.

Local residents say this is not the first time that people's homes have been demolished with little notice, citing other cases of demolitions in the development of the same district.

"There's a development zone on the other side. They've demolished everything. Nothing's left," the resident said. "There were some residential buildings at the intersection, too. They were demolished without any notice."

An employee with the Keshi Prefecture Petroleum Company told RFA in an interview that the company has also dealt with demolitions that took place on company land�long used for mostly Uyghur employees living in extreme poverty�without the company's consent.

"That plot of land is ours," the employee said. "The municipal government gave it to a private developer without our permission. This private developer demolished a few of our buildings."

An official in the building management office of the company, surnamed Shan, said the municipal government had even issued false documents to enable the developer to have the company's recreational center for retirees demolished. He said that while his company was fully aware that the behavior of the municipal government was illegal, they did not dare offend the local government. "For the local government, what they say is legal is legal. What they say is illegal is illegal. Our personal opinion is that it should be illegal."

The requisition of land by local governments and state-owned enterprises has sparked protests across China, as residents complain of poor compensation and forceful removals.

Chinese attorneys and legal scholars have denounced the now-widespread aggressive demolition and relocation practices as government-sponsored thuggery, which China's weak judicial system is failing to check. Local governments — ; which often treat the police as their private enforcement agency — ; are able to make huge profits from redevelopment deals as urban property markets boom.

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