Villagers in Hunan Province protested Monday over the death of a neighbor who came home to find that authorities had demolished his home, and died shortly afterward, apparently of shock.
Xiao Qi, resident of the small village, was enraged at the illegal demolition of his home to make way for a hydroelectric project, a neighbor told Radio Free Asia (RFA).
"He wasn't home, and the government suddenly just demolished his home, using a bulldozer to raze it," another neighbor told RFA. "Xiao Qi was too upset, and was too angry, and had a headache all evening. He died at about 7.00 p.m. that day."
His neighbors were so disturbed at the destruction of Xiao’s home and death that they attempted to carry his body to local Communist Party (CCP) offices in protest, but were stopped by police.
"When we got to the ferry pier, there were about 60 riot police who stopped us going any further," one of the protesters related to RFA. "Then they said they'd pay out 30,000 yuan [U.S. $4,918 in compensation]. His family was furious."
Xiao’s daughter said that his family was negotiating with officials over compensation for what she called an illegal demolition and causing her father’s death.
"My dad was tormented to death," she said, in response to officials’ call for an autopsy. "A lot of people witnessed it with their own eyes; what need is there for an autopsy?" she said.
The incident occurred amidst a forced mass relocation, with officials heavily pressuring village residents to move out in order to commence work on the hydroelectric project. Villagers said that their electricity had been cut off to force them to move.
The township government on Monday declined to comment on the incident. The CCP has initiated numerous controversial hydroelectric projects, frequently accompanied by protests, violence and suicides as villagers are displaced, often with meager or no compensation.
A recent report by Amnesty International attributed forced evictions to 41 cases of self-immolation in the two years between 2009 and 2011, four times the cases in the previous decade. Officials take the property to sell to development companies, the report said.
A 2011 study by the Landesa Rural Development Institute said that almost half of all rural residents in China have had land appropriated from them, with an increase in evictions every year.