Is this where we're headed?
Chinese granny buried alive by property developers
A 70-year-old Chinese grandmother in the central province of Hubei was beaten and buried alive by property developers eager to get their hands on her land.
By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai Published: 12:30AM GMT 06 Mar 2010
A protester holds up a policeman's badge which he had torn off after fights had broken out between homeowners and police
Wang Cuyun was attempting to prevent a demolition team from knocking down her house when she was allegedly beaten by a worker with a wooden stick and then pushed into a ditch that had been dug around the property.
A bulldozer then covered Mrs Wang with earth, burying her alive. By the time her relatives dug her up, she was dead. The incident occurred last Wednesday in Maodian village in Huangpi district.
Mrs Wang's case is the latest in a series of cases in China that have drawn widespread public condemnation of the behaviour of rapacious property developers and the government's failure to intervene. Last year, Tang Fuzhen, a woman in Sichuan province, climbed on to the roof of her three-storey house and set herself on fire to protest against being evicted.
With house prices rocketing across the country, developers often team up with local governments to force homeowners out of their property, according to a recent report by Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), an NGO based in Hong Kong.
It is not possible to refuse an eviction in China, since the government technically owns all the land.
Chinese law also does not require developers to agree a compensation fee before they demolish a property.
"The current framework offers little protection to homeowners," said a spokesman for CHRD.
"Evictions are often carried out in the middle of the night and without prior notice. Evictees are rarely, if ever, given any legal aid and some sink into poverty after being evicted from their homes," he added.
The government has said it is aware of the growing, and often middle-class, anger against forced evictions, and is currently drafting new regulations that will protect homeowners. In particular, the government has said that property developers must not force residents out of their homes by beating them or cutting off the water and electricity supply.
But in Mrs Wang's case, three policemen helped supervise the demolition team while she was being buried, but did not intervene to protect her.
Local residents tore off the police officers's badges in scuffles afterwards.
Chen Xiao, Mrs Wang's son, moved his mother's body to the main road nearby to protest against the killing and thousands of locals soon crowded the scene to demand an explanation. One neighbour, who remained unnamed, told Hubei Television's economic channel that the policemen had "stood around, acting like it was none of their business".
The local government confirmed the death on its website.
"Wang Cuyun, 70, a villager from Maodian, received an accidental injury at a local demolition site on March 3," said a notice. "She was taken to hospital but had passed away. The government has begun an investigation and has already arrested a number of people. After the investigation is complete, a notice will be issued," it added.
The government also thanked China's "internet citizens" for bringing the matter to its attention. However, all news reports about Mrs Wang were censored on the Chinese internet on Friday.