Violence over housing demolition continues to grow as farmers feel threatened by urbanization

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/18 20:28:39

Trucks and grab excavators demolish buildings on April 12 in Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province. Photo: IC

The tension between Chinese farmers and the local government in house demolition remains "the top domestic contradictions in China," as the country continues to spur urbanization and building a new countryside, a report said.

In 2016, China has witnessed more violence in house demolition as a growing number of farmers choose to defend themselves through violent acts when their houses were forcefully demolished, according to an annual report jointly issued by China Urban and Rural Management and Property Law Research Centre and the Beijing Cailiang Law Firm on Sunday.

In 2016, the execution of Jia Jinglong, a villager from North China's Hebei Province has torn the Chinese society apart. Jia was sentenced to death for killing his village chief with a nail gun. With approval from China's Supreme People's Court (SPC), Jia was executed, despite strong opposition from lawyers and scholars.

Two days after Jia's death, another villager in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province killed his village chief and two of his relatives over a land dispute on November 16, 2016.

There is a common element in all these "bloodshed" cases: when villagers were threatened and cannot report to the police, they take matters into their own hands and look for solutions that are not offered by the authority, which eventually results in vengeful violence and bloodshed, the report said.

More than 100 similar cases related to house demolition were reported solely through social media in 2015, according to the report. But all these violent demolitions were not authorized or organized by the courts.

'Scapegoat'

The village committees were always mistakenly put under the spotlight and became the scapegoat for the escalating tension: the antagonism between village officials and villagers or village officials oppressing villagers, according to the report.

A woman in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province was found dead by her son in the rubbles of a demolition 21 days after her house was forcibly torn down by the local village and street committees in June 2016.

In December 2016, eight officials were sentenced to prison for abuse of power, causing a major accident and neglect of duty over the incident.

The regulation on the Expropriation of Buildings on State-owned Land and Compensation issued by the State Council stipulates that governments at the city or county level shall be responsible for the house expropriation and compensation within its administrative region.

It said, the building expropriation department organized by the government shall authorize and oversee the process.

The department responsible, however, handed over the house demolishing duty to the street, village or community committees in many regions in 2016, in order to avoid legal supervision, the report pointed out.

Since the village committees are not administrative departments and villagers have difficulties providing evidence, they usually fail either the administrative litigation or the civil litigation, Wang Cailiang, the report's author and the director of Beijing Cailiang Law Firm, told the Global Times.

"Villagers are at the end of the rope when they face threat of forceful demolition," Wang said.

'Legal promise'

A legal house demolition requires all kinds of proper documents and a compensation deal with villagers, which is very difficult to obtain. That's why some governments seek legal loopholes by handing the task over to local committees, Xie Zhiyong, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times.

Courts at all levels in China received more than 156,000 administrative cases between January and August 2016, according to the report.

The growing number of administrative cases not only shows that the conflict between the citizens and governments still remains but also displays the Chinese people's willingness to safeguard their rights through legal procedure, rather than through violent method, Xie said.

Li Jingguo, a professor at the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday that the house demolition in villages is part of China's effort to implement urban-rural integration, aiming to provide suitable living environment for the people.

Wang called for the provincial and city-level supervision committee to set up specialized expropriation supervision department for overcoming the tension and safeguarding the residents' rights.


Newspaper headline: Fighting force


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