On July 27, Zhang Shiying, a villager from Xinguan Village, Suizhou City in Hubei Province, jumped from a building to protest the local authorities' policy of forced demolition. [ Editor's Note: The Chinese government frequently seizes people's homes, offers compensation of only a fraction of the market value, and demolishes the homes to clear the land for sale for the construction of office buildings or other high-profit ventures. ]
Zhang's son-in-law, He Shihai, told The Epoch Times on July 28, “Our mother is very brave. She gave her life to protect her children's legal rights and to protest the mafia-like local authorities. Our relatives, friends and family are very sad and angry.”
According to He Shihai, it was his house that this late mother-in-law was trying to protect. He Shihai said that the local government planning department recently announced his house to be an illegal construction, though earlier the authorities had issued him a permit to build the house. Mr. He's family is far from alone in their suffering. More than 140 previously permitted buildings in the area were later announced to be illegal.
On May 9, the City Planning Enforcement Bureau issued a forced demolition notice to He Shihai. Mr. He pleaded for an administrative review, but never received any response.
On July 26, the day before Zhang's suicide, He Shihai negotiated with the leaders of the Bureau, proposing that the Bureau demolish only two of the four storeys of his house. But the Bureau insisted on demolishing the whole building.
At around 8 a.m. Friday morning, before any agreement was reached, the Bureau sent two to three hundred people and over a dozen vehicles to prepare for the demolition of He's house. He Shihai told the reporter, “They also brought some gangsters. Many people in that group were not law enforcement personnel, but gangsters. We all know that.”[ Editor's Note: It is a common practice that municipal governments will hire local hoodlums to drive out residents with threats and beatings; BBC cameramen captured on such incident last year. ]
Zhang Shiying, almost 70 years old, climbed to the top of building to protest the brutal demolition, maybe in a hope that an old woman's pleas could move the gang. But the demolishers would not be stopped. Her last hope destroyed, Zhang jumped off in despair.
Medical personnel were unable to save Zhang Shiying's life. On hearing about her death, the gang immediately ran away. He Shihai rebuked the demolishers for their cold-bloodedness, “They are so inhuman. They saw someone jumping off the building, but they cared too little to do anything to help. All they did was run away.”
He Shihai said that as a result of general criticism, his house has survived for the time being.
At the site of the event, an official of the Bureau openly lectured He and his supporters that “the authorities would always overpower law and reason.”
He Shihai said he has no confidence at all that he can protect his house. He chided the government officials for caring only for their own profits, and having no regard for people's lives. He lamented that common people in China have been suffering too much.
He Shihai said that if the authorities continue to abuse their powers and fail to handle things justly, he and his wife will appeal and seek justice for their mother.
This tragedy was first introduced to the public by Mr. Liu Feiyue, chief editor of People's Observer, a Website dedicated to disclosing human rights abuses in China. Liu Feiyue said that the tragic suicide of Zhang Shiying is the result of an extremely brutal forced demolition program. Liu said, “People have been pushed over the edge by forced demolitions. It's time for the world to think why such tragedies have happened again and again in China.”
Indeed, in China it is not uncommon for people to kill themselves to protest the unfair treatment by the authorities. China's legal system has denied people every possibility to protect their basic rights, so when wronged by the authorities, the helpless common people often find their own lives to be the only thing they can use to express their despair and indignation.