Authorities in Hainan Province destroyed a 500-year-old ancestral hill cemetery and then, when villagers standing up for their rights were met with government suppression and seizures by force, officials repackaged the story, saying the “villagers endorsed the relocation of the tombs.”
Nothing could be further from the truth, villagers say.
On June 30, the government-run TV station in Changjiang Li Autonomous County in Hainan, the smallest and southernmost province of China, aired a high-profile report saying that the authorities had cleared the “last kilometer” of hill tombs by removing them from a section of road in Laohong village in Chahe town for the construction of a tourist highway and relocating them.
“The various departments of the Changjiang county party committee, as well as town and village cadres, patiently communicated with the villagers multiple times and, after patiently and meticulously straightening out the villagers of Laohong, they alleviated the villagers’ worries and won over their support and understanding,” the report said. “Over 70 village households voluntarily cooperated with the government for the relocation of over 600 tombs, while more than 80 tombs that were not relocated that belong to over 20 households will be prepared for burial in accordance with government regulations.”
Video: The report by Changjiang News
But over the last few days, news to the contrary has emerged. One villager revealed to Bitter Winter that the Chinese Communist Party entirely fabricated this news. He provided a large number of videos and images to our reporter and recounted the truth about the whole incident.
Video: Video made by villagers
So, on the morning of June 27, over 1,000 individuals — sent by government officials from 14 departments, including regular and riot police — entered the ancestral hill cemetery of Laohong village and had a confrontation with the 200-plus villagers protecting the tombs.
After police shot smoke bombs at the villagers, riot police swarmed the hill cemetery and forcibly removed villagers from the chaotic scene. The hill cemetery was shrouded in smoke, blocking visibility of the road and causing several villagers to pass out. One villager was beaten by police, causing his whole body to swell and turn purple. Other helpless villagers tried to flee, and when they did, the police set four police dogs after them; two were bitten, one of whom was a disabled person. Five received wounds after officers shot smoke bombs at the villagers; one, who was hit in the head, was seriously injured. In total nine villagers were seized and eight were taken into detention. Police also hauled away 12 motorcycles and pedicabs belonging to the villagers.
Video: Police shot smoke bombs and set police dogs to attack the villagers
The government also installed surveillance cameras by roads and in the trees in Laohong, placed drones to search from the skies and dispatched vehicles 24 hours a day to patrol and surveil the village. To top it all off, villagers’ phones are being monitored and the police are even bribing villagers into reporting others who were against the relocation. Villagers have had to flee all over, and some are unable to return home.
Of the more than 20 villagers from Laohong who were detained by police, there are six still in custody. On August 3 and August 4, their families received arrest notices issued by the Changjiang Li Autonomous County prosecutor’s office on trumped up charges of “obstructing government administration.” These six villagers are facing prison sentences; there are still at least 200 other villagers on the run. The only people who remain in the village are nearly all children and the elderly.
According to villagers, the local government is blocking information and refusing to let outsiders enter. The government is planning on seizing all of the villagers on the run within 2 months, and having them sign a “tomb relocation agreement” as a record of the “villagers’ endorsement” of the relocation of the tombs.
Reported by Lin Yijiang