Protest Over Land Grab Takes a Scary Turn

January 24, 2010 Updated: January 24, 2010

Eleven of 200 teachers who were protesting a land expropriation at their middle school in Sichuan Province found themselves buried alive when the ground they stood on collapsed due to excavation by the construction crew. Six were rushed to a hospital with injuries.

A construction team from the Hot-Arm International Co. began digging on the grounds of the Fengjie Middle School in Chongqing on Jan. 18. School officials initially contacted the police who came briefly but did not handle the problem. Teachers then came out at noon to protest, but the crew continued to dig.

According to a report in the Yangcheng Evening News, physics teacher Chai Haiyun said the construction team supervisor shouted, “Only 200,000 yuan for each body, so dig on!” The comment angered the teachers, who then refused to leave.

The team hollowed out the ground underneath where the teachers were standing, and the ground collapsed, sliding down the slope.

“It all happened so fast,” Chai said. “When we realized the land beneath us started to crack, it was too late. Eleven of us fell and three were completely buried.” Other teachers quickly dug them out, and six were taken to the county People’s Hospital. Chai was diagnosed with a rib fracture.

Faculty members at the school posted their own report: “The digging had already gone 30 feet over the construction line. They continued to dig toward the school. At noon, 200 teachers went out to negotiate with the construction team, asking them to stop. They told us another company had already expropriated part of the school property, and they wanted to be sure they got some of it. They also told us that their company is government-owned, so we needed to listen to them.”

Two county officials came and asked the construction team to stop work temporarily. When the officials left, however, the excavation resumed. The incident took place 20 minutes later.

The company denies the teachers’ claims. According to a report from the Xiaoxiang Morning News, an employee at the Hot-Arm Company confirmed that the teachers were buried, but denied the supervisor’s remark of “200,000 yuan for each body.” He asserted that the teachers went past the construction line and thus fell into the hole.

To date, there has been no official report.

Read the original Chinese article