A woman was injured as at least 100 police officers began forcefully evicting families from a neighborhood in east Beijing yesterday despite new laws in China protecting private property.
Police surrounded three one-story old brick homes in the Nanyingfang neighborhood of Chaoyang district yesterday morning as moving crews piled the belongings of the unwilling home-owners onto vans.
One middle-aged woman was brought out of her home covered in blood, the cause of her injuries was unclear. Several residents from another home were pulled out and shoved into a police van.
Police sprayed foam from fire extinguishers on a large crowd of onlookers whose homes were also facing demolition in coming days.
Journalists were ordered not to take pictures and leave the site.
"What laws? The Chinese government's words are all meaningless, all lies," said a nearby resident who was facing imminent eviction.
"It was all over the newspapers, that officials cannot carry out demolitions as they wish, but if they want to do, what power do we have to stop them?" said another woman.
As they spoke, two large bulldozers knocked down the wall of one home, where someone had scribbled in large black Chinese characters: "Forceful demolition and evictions violate and are forbidden by the national constitution. Uphold the constitution. Fight for human rights."
More than 1,000 households live in the neighborhood where houses once served as barracks for soldiers of the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911) who guarded the Chaoyangmen gate of the capital's city walls.
Unlike most demolitions happening throughout Beijing, the residents in Nanyingfang own their homes, purchased following the fall of the Qing Dynasty and passed down from generations over 100 years.
Under China's constitution, amended in March to protect private assets for the first time, the res-idents are supposed to have rights to negotiate a fair compensation before moving.
The central government this year also ordered local governments not to carry out "chaotic," unreasonable requisition of land.
But none of that mattered yesterday with the Chaoyang district government intent on making way for a major developer to build what residents believe will be a shopping district.
"We are not against demolitions, but they should give us a fair price for our land," said one woman.
"With the price they are giving us, we can't even afford to buy a home in the outskirts of Beijing. Our kids won't be able to go to school in central Beijing."
The government is offering a compensation price of about 4,000 to 6,000 yuan (US$482 to US$723) per m2, which residents said was below market price.
A newly built upscale apartment building next to the brick homes is selling for more than double the rate -- 13,000 yuan per square meter.
Homeowners requested anonymity for fear of retribution for speaking to foreign journalists. Officials could not immediately be reached for comment.