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The view close up: a wild horse

November 15, 2012

konjaku: moving away from Beijing for the moment to some perspectives on demolition and land reform in general:

How is it that cases of violence associated with demolitions continue to rise?


Liaoning province Panjin city. In a dispute, a policeman opened fire with a gun, resulting in the death of a villager, Wang Shujie. Four days passed. At the end of four days, the Panjin government and the media respectively released their findings concerning the incident. On the government’s side, the local prosecutor’s office stated, “The policeman felt his life was in danger.” The policemen was carrying out his regular duties properly, use of the firearm was in accord with the legal stipulations. The media’s account was that at that place no agreement had been reached with the villagers over a compensation amount for demolishing their houses.  A forcible demolition was going on illegally, in the absence of a court judgement. This was the conclusion of the media.

The statement from the prosecutors office was lacking in details, which led to a rise in public opinion challenging the conclusion.  The conflict arose where? How many people were involved in it? Why did the police show up at the place of dispute? When they got there, what did they do ? Having received these two different opinions it was unavoidable that we would want to pursue the truth of the matter in detail. Without further pursuing the facts, the basis for determining which side made wrong judgements is weak. The report of the investigation was quickly and sloppily put together, exhausting to read. It constantly emphasizes that the government acted rationally and the other side was the source of the conflict. We have seen this deceptiveness often in recent years. It is necessary to call all these reports into question.

That the police should be extremely careful about firing a gun, is common knowledge. The main question is whether in this case something made it unavoidable. According to the investigation, the police went to mediate the dispute, they were not a party in the dispute. How then did it change to become a conflict between the police and the villagers? In what manner did the police conduct their mediation? These are questions that need to be answered.

Forcible demolition was the cause of the incident. This point needs to be made clear: even when it is a lawful demolition, still proceeding by force is not legal. 2011-06, in the formally implemented “Peoples Republic of China Provisional Regulations on Levying Land, Demolishing and Moving Residents, and Paying Compensation” it expressly stipulates that if the the resettlement details and compensation amount for people forced to move has not yet been fully determined through consultation with the parties involved, forcible demolition is not allowed. If a forcible demolition is to be enforced, it must happen through a court of law. If no representative or representation from the court appears at the scene of demolition, that demolition is illegal. In that case, why did the police not act to prevent a forcible demolition which was clearly illegal? Why did the police shoot persons who were resisting an illegal act?

Those who demolish do not hold back from using force to achieve their goal, and at present more and more of those subject to demolition use force in response. Blood spilled over demolitions is happening more frequently. Do we have the courage to squarely face and solve this problem? It is worth noting that last year,  in this same Panjin city, an  auxilliary police recruit and a demolition operation employee were wounded by being hacked and cut by protestors. It is no coincidence that what turns one way also turns the other. All of this is due to problems inherent in the real estate market.

Deriving income from land finance has since long become a way of life for local governments [by requisitioning village collective land and selling it on the market].  The local government that does not demolish loses its means of subsistence. It is like a wild horse that bolts, dragging its victims behind it without looking back. It is this formidable force that makes stopping forcible demolitions impossible. Only by paying attention to the underlying reality can we hope to transform the current situation.

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