Sat, Sep 11, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Chinese officials send in thugs to enforce evictions

AFP , BEIJING

Authorities sent convicted criminals to intimidate peasants and forcibly demolish their homes in a festering eviction dispute in southeastern China, villagers and a rights group said yesterday.

More than 380 people, including police and thugs recently released from labor camps, used bulldozers to flatten three homes and cut off the water supply as a warning to Wanli village in Fujian Province, New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC) said.

Four villagers were arrested after refusing to let their houses be razed, villager You Ajin said.

Another villager, Zhang Zongzhong, 70, ran upstairs with a bottle of kerosene and matches when he saw bulldozers approaching in an apparent suicide attempt, but was taken away by the clearance team.

Local officials told villagers that their houses had to be demolished because they had no proper ownership deeds, You said.

She claimed officials were taking over land and homes to sell to developers for profit without compensating farmers, like many other cases emerging around China.

The villagers have been told to leave on their own accord by Sept. 18, after which their homes would be destroyed, HRIC said.

It is the second time in a month that authorities have reportedly used heavy-handed tactics after farmers in the village were attacked by more than 100 police officers and 14 hired thugs on Aug. 1, HRIC said.

"There was an eviction, there were relevant government departments involved but it was not a forcible eviction. Many buildings are against regulations and need removing," a Cangshan township government official said.

"There were no clashes," he said, and denied that convicted criminals were used.

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