Despite an onslaught of adversity, Jiangsu resident Yao Baohua is determined to prevent his property from being taken by local authorities for a commercial development.
The 75-year-old retired math teacher is in hospital in Changzhou City after a recent operation to remove a stomach tumor. His wife and son are in jail, and he and his daughter only recently made bail.
Their three-story house is the last one remaining on 30 acres of collective land, now a “nail house” (as they are called in China, because they stick up) surrounded by rubble, that was once a bustling village in Zhonggulou district. Local officials want to build new apartments there near the city center, but Yao’s family refused to accept the compensation on offer, even after hired thugs were sent in.
Authorities often provide very low compensation to those they forcefully evict, and keep for themselves the windfall profits from flipping the land to developers.
“Everyone else has gone, fight by fight, tear by tear,” Yao told AFP. “But I will never give up. It is an illegal development.”
His daughter Yao Qin added that at first residents were not offered compensation, but eventually received a total of 700,000 yuan (about $113,500).
In a February interview with the South China Morning Post, Yao said the officials told his family they would be jailed “one by one” if they did not sign the agreement to give up their land. “They are using my wife and son as hostages,” Yao said. “But I won’t sign it–even if I have to die.”
Yao’s lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, listed the consequences his client has suffered to his 89,000 followers on Weibo at the weekend: “Yao Baohua, 75, has helped Jiangsu villagers to fight against unjust expropriation of land by developers since 2004. In the past 10 years, he has been detained three times, and been imprisoned in a forced labor camp for one year and three months. At the end of December 2012, he was arrested for the fourth time, charged with “inciting a mob” and a public order offense. Later, he was re-alleged with inciting a mob plus a social order offense.”
“Now, the latest allegation against him is extortion. His 74-year-old wife is being held in a detention center, also charged with extortion.”
A human rights activist named Zhang JIanping noted on Weibo that a deputy director had visited the hospital specifically to deliver the new prosecution order to Yao, even though he had just been operated on. “This society has no scruples about false accusations,” he added.
Yao’s daughter told AFP: “This is political persecution. It is not just about forced evictions. The second Cultural Revolution is coming.”