Nothing seemed wrong when Ms. Shi, a woman living in the eastern Chinese city of Yancheng, travelled abroad in an excursion organized by her company. She lived in an area due to be demolished to make way for a construction project, but talks with the local housing relocation authorities had been deadlocked for years.
Before Shi had left on March 14, officials from the department courteously bade her bon voyage when hearing of her plans, the Nanjing-based Modern Express reported April 21.
Ms. Shi returned over a week later to find that her 220,000-yuan (about $33,000), three-story home had been razed to the ground. All her furniture and belongings were gone.
A visit by Shi to the housing relocation department, land developers, and local officials was inconclusive. All denied any knowledge about the demolition.
Workers at a construction site near the remains of Shi’s home said that the building seemed to have been demolished on March 19. They evaded further inquiry from Shi.
“We’re only responsible for construction, this has nothing to do with us,” one worker said.
Chinese elites are known for their massive real estate frenzies, and cases like Ms. Shi’s are commonplace. Last December, Xu Yong, a resident of Sichuan Province in southwestern China, found his mother-in-law’s house bulldozed during the night when she was visiting a different province.
Unsurprisingly, Shi suspects the relocation authorities, as she had been discussing fair compensation with them since 2012.
The authorities had repeatedly tried to get her to undersell her property.
“In total, my home is 355 square meters (about 3,800 feet), but the property certificate recognizes less than 200 square meters of that,” Shi said, “and we received no notification of the demolition beforehand.”
Internet users commenting on the incident criticized the developers and relocation authorities:
“They acted first and reported later, haha, after all these are ‘Chinese characteristics,'” said one comment lampooning the Chinese regime’s definition of state-driven capitalism as “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Others blamed the victim for carelessness:
“This dear woman is too childish, don’t you see you are dealing with rascals, yet you dare to go on vacation trip with the entire family? You cannot blame others, it’s not like they don’t know, they had had it all planned out.”
Another user alluded to incidents in which people defending their property from construction workers were killed in the process: “This household is lucky, since the house was demolished secretly, instead of by force.”