Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Family's House Demolished 'By Accident' While Away


By Gu Qing’er
Epoch Times Staff Created: Dec 29, 2009 Last Updated: Dec 29, 2009
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The owners camp out on a cold December night after their house was demolished.
The owners camp out on a cold December night after their house was demolished. (Internet posts from China)

As Chinese families gather to celebrate the New Year holiday, one family won’t get the chance; authorities demolished their house while they were away, leaving them only a pile of rubble. The case of Li Xueping of Wuhan City, documented in pictures and text on Internet posts, alleges that authorities have adopted a new term for demolishing houses outside prescribed channels: doing it “by accident.”

On Dec. 11, Mr. Li returned to find that the five-story building he used to live in was in shambles. Apparently, while his family was away during the day, local authorities demolished the building to make way for new urban development.

Li’s family had never discussed the building’s potential demolition with local officials. When they went to the demolition bureau to protest, officials said that it was a mistake, and that his building had been confused with another. They added, however, that the building had been newly added to a list of those to be demolished in a later phase, and that the family shouldn’t cause trouble.

They agreed to give compensation to the Li family based on 180 square meters of building space. Li’s family contended that the building was 900 square meters. Since the building was demolished, and prior records were incomplete, Li’s family had no way of challenging the figure, the information online said.

Residential demolitions have been happening across China for over a decade to make way for large-scale redevelopment and expansion of urban centres, a process closely tied to the growth of the economy and soaring land prices. Under Chinese law, the state owns all urban land. Residents are supposed to receive the market value for their house when being relocated, but this amount is rarely enough to buy a house of similar price and location.

The residents hang read lanterns, which usually expresses holiday joy, to protest their treatment.
The residents hang read lanterns, which usually expresses holiday joy, to protest their treatment. (Internet posts from China)

The process of forced land acquisition is often enmeshed in corruption, as officials buy land off residences for nominal prices then sell it to developers at a large profit. Chinese who are on the receiving end of such raw deals sometimes resort to extreme measures to protest their treatment, including self-immolation, or violence directed toward the wrecking crews.

In this case the family only set up tents on the debris, and hoisted red lanterns with white banners to express their outrage. The banners read: “Illegal demolition [happened here], give us back our home;” “Forced demolition without compensation,” and “Yesterday our home was here, today it is gone.”

Demolitions later termed “accidents” have happened elsewhere, too, according to Mr. Liu Feiyue from Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, an NGO based in China. He said it shows that there are deceptive practices and violations of citizens’ rights in the urban development process, partly reflecting the failure of rule of law in China.

Mr. Li and his family’s story generated responses expressing sympathy, anger, and hopelessness.

“This is what society is like today. Regardless of how long your family has lived on that land, whoever has money now owns the land. Is there really no one who will do something about this kind of forced demolition?” one user wrote.

Another thought the incident was no accident, writing “This method is commonly used in demolitions today. They first demolish the building, then make up excuses and call it a mistake. There is a legal loophole. This [method of forcing people to move] is much more effective than cutting off their water and electricity.”

“Such mafia-style demolition sucks the blood of ordinary citizens. The Yellow River and the Yangtze River are howling in rage,” another comment says.

Read the original Chinese article.

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