In Land Dispute in China’s Yunnan Province, Farmers Resist and Execute 5 by Burning

October 18, 2014 Updated: October 24, 2014

When a force of police and hired thugs came to the village of Fuyou in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province to put an end to a land dispute on Oct. 14, the inhabitants decided to fight back. During the conflict, 5 captured attackers–either police or hired thugs–were executed by burning.

During the clashes, which took the lives of at least two locals, several of the attackers were captured by villagers. The prisoners, wearing police uniforms and equipment, appear to have been paraded in public and then burned to death by their captors.

According to an Oct. 15 statement by the government of Yunnan’s capital, Kunming city, which administers Fuyou, the conflict was set off by efforts to build a logistics center for the distribution of manufactured goods.

At around 2 p.m. on Oct. 14, hundreds of men in black uniforms and helmets holding riot shields labelled “police” came to Fuyou village and began preparing the disputed land for construction. A thousand angry locals came out to meet them.

The feud went on for an hour. The attackers brought knives, metal clubs, and tear gas to bear against the locals, who armed themselves with rocks and farming tools. In the end, according to state media, eight people died— six attackers and two locals. Another 18 were injured.

No detailed description of the nature of the deaths were given in the official report, but photos taken at the scene indicate that some of the men had been taken prisoner by the villagers and their equipment seized.

The captives were then brought out onto a road and appear to have been doused in gasoline and set on fire, as several postmortem photos suggest.

Official reports have defined the incident as a conflict between construction workers and local residents. However, local villagers suspect the people they confronted were hired triads or police.

Mr. Li, a resident of Fuyou village who witnessed the clash, described the chaos and terror at the scene.

“They started to attack the villagers, beating whoever they saw. Once a villager was in their hands, they beat them so hard as if they wanted to kill them,” Mr. Li told the Epoch Times on the phone, “two villagers were beaten to death by them with metal bars.”

“First they threw stones at us, then slashed people with knives over two meters long. Many villagers were injured. We threw stones back at them. Then, they used tear gas to attack us.”

One of the dead villagers had a steel pipe shoved through his face, Mr. Li said. Several villagers were wounded. The state-run Beijing Times interviewed another eyewitness villager who gave a similar description of the scene.

The villagers captured eight thugs prisoner, of which three escaped, according to Mr. Li.

The police retreated after people died, Li and other villagers report. However, the exact circumstances of the deaths are unclear. Though photos taken with villagers show the bound prisoners lying and kneeling on an empty street with bottles of yellow liquid, possibly gasoline, behind them, villagers say they don’t know who started the fire.

Further photos show the charred bodies of the men, leading to speculation online that they were executed by enraged villagers rather than killed in the fighting. A website, which maintains that the Chinese communist regime has betrayed the ideals established by early communist leader Mao Zedong, has praised the killings as an act of revolutionary resistance against the modern Chinese Communist Party.

A Chinese official report says that local government officials visited the clash site and made a full effort to rescue the injured. Local villagers, however, said that they haven’t seen any officials visiting the village or taking care of the wounded.

The land dispute started three years ago when a logistics center, taking 2,300 acres of land and 8-billion yuan (about US$1.3 billion) was launched. Villagers have been unsatisfied with the 43,000 yuan (about $7000) of compensation per person for the land they lost.

Several clashes between the villagers and construction company have taken place since the beginning of the dispute. Construction has been suspended for a year until recently, which triggered the latest incident.

One anonymous Fuyou resident told the Epoch Times that the villagers are prepared to give their lives for their land.

“We will defend our rights and interests and protect our homeland. We are not leaving. If they come again, we will fight to the end.”

Translation by Lu Chen and editing by Leo Timm.