A woman in central China who refused to comply with demolition officials, was recently found dead in the rubble of her home after having been missing for 21 days. The family have accused local officials of burying her alive.
Gong Xuehui, a 60-year-old peasant, has been missing since June 16, after some hundred cadres and police in black uniforms and red armbands forcefully razed her four-floor house to the ground.
The city’s investigation report on July 12 found 4 crew members and 23 officials, including the regional committee secretary and district chief, guilty of negligence. However, no legal action has been taken.
“The local district office, upon the request of Mount Chazi Village Committee, carried out an illegal house demolition, and in negligence accidentally caused people’s death during house demolition,” states the notice.
Gong’s family members were dragged from their home into separate minibuses and released only after the swift demolition was over—Gong was nowhere to be found.
The family started a desperate search, using all means available—they went to the village committee, demolition office, various hospitals and the detention center, and inquired with the police daily for a week, yet no trace of Gong appeared.
The family said the village officials tried to prevent them from searching the ruins of their home. Wan Zhi, the local party secretary, has repeatedly declined the family’s request to search the demolished house, Gong’s eldest son, Yang Jun, told Beijing Times.
The cadres refused family’s request to borrow a digger from the village committee.
“Seventy to Eighty people with eight flashlights have checked [the house] a dozen times, it was impossible to have people down there,” Yang was told, according to NetEase.
Local excavator drivers also turned them away one after another, possibly out of fear of repercussions. The first driver that came to help them abandoned the job after getting a phone call.
“I still need to work here…I can’t afford to offend [them],” Yang recollected the driver’s words to NetEase.
Gong’s family finally got a willing tractor driver three weeks later, on July 7. With his help, they soon uncovered a hand from the rubble before recognizing the red clothes she wore on the day of demolition. Gong’s remains were taken away by the police and cremated the next day.
The neighbors referred to Gong as a mild-mannered woman who loved playing Mahjong and occasionally shared with them her home-grown vegetables.
Mount Chazi Village was one of the 20 main targets of a “village within city remodeling” project that started in 2015, according to Beijing News. Gong, expecting higher compensation, rejected the relocation “contract” along with 11 other households.
The investigation of Changsha City has determined the forced demolition voted by 63 village representatives “illegal.”
“The compensation that the local government provides for land requisition is normally one tenth of the market price,” Huang Qi, a human rights activist in Sichuan, told Radio Free Asia.
Weibo users expressed outrage. “Six years since I learned to use the internet, I’ve seen people buried alive during demolition, crushed to death under excavators, gangsters hacking them to death. But strangely enough, I have never seen any reports of those responsible facing the death, penalty or even a prison sentence.”