Violating ownership rights, authorities forced residents in a Henan Province village to give away their homes, without providing new housing or compensation.
by Li Guang
On a sweltering early afternoon on June 30, a sorrowful weeping penetrated the air in Xiayuan village, administered by Cijian town in the central province of Henan. Residents in the village, or what has remained of it, came out to witness yet another drama unfolding in the past few months, as local officials dragged their neighbor, a woman in her 80s, from her son’s house. Left underneath a tree, the woman was crying inconsolably as a front loader and an excavator started demolishing her home. In a few minutes, the walls collapsed, and the two-story house was turned into a pile of ruins.
Video: The house where the elderly woman lived in Xiayuan village was demolished.
Houses expropriated to build a road
It all started in January when the government of Cijian town under the jurisdiction of Xin’an county in Luoyang city told 59 households in Xiayuan that the state had expropriated their homes and land to build a new road. The government ordered them to move out before February 10 and promised to provide them with new housing.
Following the Luoyang city’s ordinance on the construction of Luo–Xin Expressway, adopted on October 1, 2017, after the central authorities’ call to “build roads before building wealth,” 12 villages under the city’s administration were ordered to make way for the development of the road. This meant that numerous households would have to relocate.
One of the residents in Xiayuan told Bitter Winter that people were unwilling to give up their houses and leave because most of them had lived there for a long time, and the authorities didn’t offer them any compensation for the land and the money in exchange for their houses was insufficient. Moreover, it turned out that the new homes for village residents to relocate were not to be finished in the foreseeable future. “Where are we supposed to move to?” villagers asked the officials, but they refused to listen to people’s legitimate concerns and made them sign agreements to give away their homes and land.
In February, during the Chinese New Year, the most important holiday in China when families get together to celebrate, the town authorities demolished 57 houses in Xiayuan village. The people left with nowhere to live were distraught, overwhelmed by the injustice of the government that has robbed them like regular bandits, taking over their homes without appropriate compensation.
A court’s ruling means nothing in China
Two households in the village refused to sign the agreements and hired a lawyer who helped them win lawsuits with the authorities. Regardless, the government returned to Xiayuan four months later to finish their business of demolishing the two remaining obstacles in the construction of the road – yet another proof that the rule of law is non-existent in China since not even a court’s ruling can protect people’s legitimate rights and interests.
One of the two houses belonged to the son of the elderly woman who was crying under the tree on June 30, witnessing how more than 100 police officers and construction workers were destroying her home. To prevent anyone from approaching, the two condemned buildings were sealed off by the police. Demolition workers removed the belongings from the two houses, and in just ten minutes, the buildings were gone, two piles of ruins were left behind, as police officers, workers, and government officials left the scene.
According to a local source who asked to remain anonymous, to force the elderly woman’s son to sign the land expropriation agreement, before the demolition, the authorities detained him for seven days for “disturbing social order” and ordered to destroy the road leading to his house.
“There is nowhere for people to reason in China now! Xi Jinping is always advocating for a civilized and harmonious society. It’s all lies,” the villager complained.
Villagers arrested fighting for their rights
The villagers who signed the agreement never received the promised compensation and new housing. On June 16, more than 200 villagers whose houses were demolished went to the local government to seek justice. They never expected that eight of them would be arrested afterward, in the period from June 21 to August 1. Six villagers remain in custody to date. Fearing retributions, some residents decided to go into hiding.
The remaining residents in the village live in an atmosphere of terror. No one dares to bring up the subject of compensation again or even discuss the matter amongst themselves anymore.
“The government is making an example to scare others. They’re like a wolf carrying a sheep in its mouth, arresting and detaining villagers one by one, and making people extremely anxious,” a villager said with anger. “The Communist Party regime is so evil.”