Many in China have had their land confiscated by local officials, with little to no compensation. Christy Chang’s parents were one of the victims.
Chang immigrated to Canada with her husband and two children in 2019. Her parents used to be millionaires in China, running a jujube orchard and a pharmacy store. However, local officials began to harass them in 2009 and later stole the orchard land from them. Chang’s parents, now living in poverty, have been petitioning authorities for 10 years to no avail.
Chang told The Epoch Times that her parents’ experience is common in China’s countryside. She feels that she has to speak out to expose the injustice, Chang said.
Chang’s father, Chang Xiangming, leased 7.4 acres of land from a local middle school in Chaoyang County, Liaoning Province. The contract period was for 35 years—from 2004 to 2039. He paid a lump-sum lease fee of $1,411 for the first 15 years.
The land was previously owned collectively by Shijia village. It was transferred to the middle school under official supervision in 1994.
“The land had been abandoned for many years. My father invested a lot of manpower, material, and financial resources to improve the soil after the contract took effect,” Chang said. “He planted over 6,000 premium jujube trees and 2,000 poplar trees. They started to bear fruits in 2008. We were very happy, looking forward to a bright future.”
However, in early 2009, the Chaoyang county government planned to relocate its government buildings. The land they intended to requisition included Chang’s orchard, which is close to the main traffic arteries and spans almost half a mile from north to south. It’s therefore a desirable location, Chang explained.
Xu Guozhen, the deputy mayor of Chaoyang county, and two Shijia village officials wanted to carve up the orchard amongst themselves, according to Chang. The two village officials organized villagers a number of times to take over the land by force, while Chang’s parents tried hard to defend their orchard.
Then, in October 2009, the officials instigated villagers to sue Chang Xiangming for infringement of their property rights, demanding the return of the land. However, the local court investigated and concluded that the villagers gave away the land to the middle school in May 1994 with proper procedures. So, Chang’s family had legal rights to the land after the school transferred it to them.
Trees Destroyed, Harassment, and Beating
But after losing the lawsuit, deputy mayor Xu still didn’t give up. On March 4, 2010, he went to the orchard with a large number of villagers and a reporter and attempted to take over the land by force.
“My mother tried to stop them, but they beat her until she passed out,” Chang said.
When her mother came to, everyone had left, and she was all alone.
“No one cared about whether my mother was dead or alive,” Chang said. Her mother was later taken to the hospital by her father. Even to this day, she suffers from the effect of the beating and can barely take care of herself, Chang said.
Several weeks later, on the evening of April 29, some villagers, led by the two village officials, sneaked into the orchard and chopped down 2,803 jujube trees and 817 poplar trees. Then, on the evening of May 30, they cut down another 2,440 jujube trees and 100 poplar trees.
Chang’s mother filed several reports with the police but was always turned away because she didn’t have any witnesses.
Bureau of Land and Resources Bribed
The corrupt village officials used other methods to try to seize the land. According to Christy Chang, the village heads incited villagers to pool their money to bribe the officials at the Chaoyang County Bureau of Land and Resources. After they did so, the bureau issued a public notice on May 21, 2012, voiding the 1994 land transfer contract from Shijia village to the school. The villagers then had the right to take back the land from the Changs.
Chang’s parents kept fighting. They took their case to court in November 2012. After initially rejecting their case, the court finally accepted it four months later.
The court hired an appraiser to appraise the orchard. The value of the land and the existing trees—excluding the 6,160 trees that were cut down—was appraised at $72,000.
“The court ruled that my parents would be compensated $72,000,” Chang told The Epoch Times. “My parents’ investment in the orchard and their losses from the remaining contract, was completely ignored by the court.”
Chang said the jujube trees they planted were a special variety priced at around $2.35 a pound, and this was a huge loss of income. But in the end, her parents didn’t even receive a penny of the $72,000 court ruling.
In the past 10 years, her parents appealed their case to various authorities, all of whom shifted responsibility to other agencies. For instance, officials at Chaoyang city’s Letters and Calls Office promised that they would help resolve the issue, but they handed the case over to the Chaoyang County Politics and Law Committee, which in turn handed the case to another agency.
Moreover, not one lawyer the couple contacted would represent them.
The most recent reply they received in May 2020 to their last filing to the Chaoyang county government, stated that “no one ever stole the land or chopped down trees. The court has already resolved your case.”
Since the Changs lost their land, their only income has been Mrs. Chang’s pension of $157 a month. Chang and her younger brother have been supporting their elderly parents financially to help pay for their essential needs. In addition, their mother is depressed and suicidal.
Chang said Chinese communist officials are lawless and they always protect one another. She hopes that other Chinese nationals who have suffered similar tragedies will also speak out in overseas media to expose the evils of communism to the international community.