In China, State-Backed Land Grab Destroys Family

September 10, 2011 1:55 am Last Updated: October 1, 2015 3:41 pm
Chinese authorities carry sticks as they prepare to stand guard before workers demolish houses which are claimed illegal by local government in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province on May 7, 2010. Land seizures have been a problem for years in China and forced evictions have not been uncommon. (AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese authorities carry sticks as they prepare to stand guard before workers demolish houses which are claimed illegal by local government in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province on May 7, 2010. Land seizures have been a problem for years in China and forced evictions have not been uncommon. (AFP/Getty Images)

Wu Ruian, a grade 12 high school student with a disabled left foot and prosthetic right leg, clambered onto his roof to defend the family home recently. He wasn’t defending it from bandits, but rather government officials and their cronies. They’d come to demolish the building so they could make a killing from selling the land.

He took off his pants to show his left foot, yelling to the demolition crew, “If you still have human nature, do not tear down our house.”

The crew ignored him. Enraged, he threw his prosthetic leg onto the street. It did little good. The incident would end with a dead official, a broken family, and a demolished house.

The Wu family’s ordeal is one of the many dramatic stories of forced demolition as it plays out on the ground in China. This account was told to The Epoch Times in a series of interviews recently. It has become known as the “6.23 Shanxi Incident” on the Chinese Internet.

Though the incident took place on June 23 in Shuozhou, Shanxi Province in central China, it didn’t come to light until Aug. 6.

Then, Wu Caorui, the eldest son of homeowner Wu Xuewen, 47, escaped police custody and revealed what had happened.

On June 23 a 150-member demolition crew led by a district-level Party official surrounded Wu’s Xuewen’ residence at around noon. The team comprised members of the court, police, street cops (known as "chengguan"), the city’s building department, and hospital and fire brigade staff.

They knew that the demolition wouldn’t be easy.

Wu Xuewen, the owner, had armed himself with a knife when he learned of the demolition team’s approach.

They talked it over but, unable to reach an agreement, decided to stand atop their house roof for the defense. Wu Xuewen, his wife, his mother, and his younger son with the prosthetic leg, Wu Ruian, all climbed up.

Wu Caorui, the elder son and a sophomore in a local technical college, stood outside the house and begged the officials to stop. They ignored him. As a bucket loader was approaching the roof, an official gave the order, “Get rid of this guy first.”

Over 20 armed police dragged Wu Caorui away and beat him unconscious with batons. He was handcuffed and thrown into a police van.

As he regained consciousness in the van, he found that his family members were being thrown in too, handcuffed and brutalized.

His mother was covered with blood, both her arms had been hit, and she was crying out. His father was also badly injured and exhausted.

The father, Wu Xuewen, had actually just killed one of the officials. A man had pretended to be willing to negotiate with Wu, and held out his hand, as if to shake in reconciliation. But when Wu extended his hand he was seized by the throat and the grip on his right hand tightened. Another official shouted: “Beat him, beat him to death.”

The terrified father tried his best to fight back and took out a small knife hidden inside his trouser leg. He stabbed his assailant in the neck. Other officials quickly jumped into the fight and put him down.

Wu’s disabled younger son was not spared either. The attackers sprayed an unidentified liquid into his eyes, blinding him temporarily.

All told, one official died during the conflict, while four others were injured. But the officials would get their vengeance.

Upon arrival at the Shuocheng District Police Station, the young son, the mother, and the grandmother were interrogated separately. The mother and grandmother were placed in handcuffs and footcuffs and subjected to lengthy interrogations.

The mother passed out many times during the interrogation. It is unclear what methods the police used, but 18 hours after the incident, on the afternoon of June 24, she was dead.

Wu Caorui was notified of his mother’s death but not allowed to see the body. Along with his grandmother and brother, the family was monitored by Public Security Bureau and not allowed to move about freely. Uncles and other family members needed to get permission before seeing them.

On July 2 Wu Quan, an attorney at Hebei’s Xingwei Attorney Office, was entrusted by an uncle to be the defense counsel for the family. But on the afternoon of July 11 he was attacked by unknown men.

The two brothers, and one sister, were staying in a hotel when the unidentified men burst in on them. Wu’s brother was pressed to the floor and had his head slammed against the ground.

Since 2007 authorities in Shuocheng District had been forcefully demolishing houses in the Wu family’s neighborhood, without legal documents, compensation, or alternative arrangements for the residents.

In the lead-up to this dramatic demolition struggle, the authorities had taken a number of measures to try to force the Wu’s out: throwing bricks at their house and smashing windows, and even throwing a bomb into their home.

The house had actually been bought with the compensation money received when Wu Ruian, the younger son, was crushed in a car accident at age 4. His right foot below the ankle was amputated.

It was an over 120 square meter bungalow, bought in 2003; one part was the residence, while the other part was used for the family business.

Wu Ruicai said that his neighbors had encountered similar incidents: bombs had been thrown into three houses in the area, with one of the places catching fire as a result of the blast.

Wu Xuewen’s defense attorney said that the entire process of demolition was illegal. The authorities didn’t allow lawyers to meet with the family and instead arranged their own lawyer. The process of appointment of that lawyer was illegal, too, he said.

Detaining Wu Xuewen’s mother and two children was also illegal; the behavior of the court staff and that of the public security officials were also all illegal, this lawyer said.

According to local residents, authorities in Shuocheng District of Shuozhou City regularly use violence to obtain land. Forced demolitions are carried out almost every day, residents said, with thugs working with local officials to evict residents so the houses can be bulldozed and the land sold to developers.

China is currently in the midst of a real-estate bubble, partly because local governments derive most of their revenues from land sales. The case of the Wu family is a dramatic illustration of this dynamic as it plays out in individual households across the country.

Read the original Chinese article.

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