A group of mostly ethnic minority Uyghurs who claim their homes in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region were unfairly demolished by local authorities six months ago are still awaiting compensation that has been promised by the authorities, according to one homeowner.
The homes of the seven residents of Hobuksar Mongol Autonomous County (Hebekesaier, in Chinese) in Tarbaghatay prefecture were destroyed in May because officials said they had no proper ownership documents although the residents had bought the property from local authorities who did not provide them with official deeds, homeowner Seypidin Sidik said.
Sidik said that his elder brother who tried to defend his house from being demolished was beaten until he lost consciousness while his wife was briefly detained.
He told RFA’s Uyghur Service that local urban planning officials agreed to pay him 310,000 yuan (U.S. $50,466) for destroying his 400-square-meter (4,306-square-feet) home after the seven went on a relentless campaign to seek redress from the authorities.
They were given small low-cost rental apartments as a temporary measure and forced to sign pledges by the authorities that they had sold their homes.
“It has been half a year since my wife and I moved into a small apartment, and after negotiating with the urban planning office several times, it agreed to offer me a 310,000 yuan payment for my destroyed home,” he said.
“Without any other choice, I was forced to sign that I had sold my house and garden to them,” he said. “Even though I accepted the offer, they still have not paid me the 310,000 yuan.”
‘Just a signature’
Hobuksar County has a multiethnic population that includes Han Chinese, Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Mongols, Sidik said.
He said he had bought his house in December 2008, although he had lived there for more than 20 years.
At the time, a Han Chinese official who was head of the local urban planning office endorsed the sale of the homes to him and six of his Uyghur and Kazakh neighbors.
“The paper that we got contained a statement from the head of the urban planning office that he had sold the house to us, with his signature on it,” Sidik said. “When we asked for the legal documents, such as the land and house certificates, he told us he would provide them later.”
But the official never did provide the documents and eventually moved to another office in a different location, Sidik said.
About a dozen Han Chinese from the local urban planning office appeared unexpectedly on his property on May 6 with tractors and bulldozers while he had gone to the regional capital Urumqi, and his wife was at work at a salt factory 300 kilometers (186 miles) away.
When his elder brother, Ablajan Sidik, and his wife asked the officials to stop the demolition work long enough so that they could retrieve his personal property, about five or six of the urban planning workers dragged him into a van and severely beat him until he lost consciousness, Seypidin Sidik said.
“My youngest brother and the wife of my elder brother attempted to rescue him, but they were then locked up in another van and left there,” he said.
Authorities beat the other brother and detained his wife, but released her a few hours later, he said.
Ablajan Sidik’s Han Chinese attackers took him to the county hospital “because they were afraid that they would be held responsible for his death,” he said.
He had sustained injuries to his chest and heart, requiring two major surgeries, Seypidin Sidik said.
The urban planning office paid 380,000 yuan (U.S. $61,900) for Ablajan Sidik’s medical treatment, but refused to accept responsibility for his injuries, Seypidin Sidik said.
Uyghurs in Xinjiang claim to have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness, amid an influx of majority Han Chinese into the region.
Reported by Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Eset Sulaiman. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.