Roger Cohen: A Woman Burns

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen visited Chengdu and met with Tang Huiqin, the older sister of Tang Fuzhen, who set herself on fire to protest the demolition of her family’s house and beatings of her family members by the local demolition squad:

“They were beating me, beating me, and I could hear my younger sister, on the highest part of the roof, screaming ‘Older sister, older brother, have you been beaten to death?’” Tang, 53, told me. “I could hear her voice but I had blacked out from the beating and could not speak.”

We were seated in the courtyard of Tang’s simple home, adjacent to her sister’s house, now reduced to rubble. Chickens strutted about. Tang had just emerged from the hospital. A large reddish scar cut across her forehead. She was nervous. It can be dangerous in China to speak out, to speak truth to power. Tang stood up and raised her shirt to reveal severe bruising all down her left flank.

Tears filled her eyes. She averted them. Her younger sister was called Tang Fuzhen. She’s dead now.

On that day, Nov. 13, as Tang Fuzhen yelled at the demolition brutes to stop the violence against her siblings, as she pleaded with them to leave her house intact, she doused herself three times in gasoline, saying she would set herself on fire, right there on the roof, if the beating of her family continued.

The blows continued to rain down and the self-immolation of Tang Fuzhen, 47, was added to the long list of victims of explosive Chinese development.

Read more about Tang Fuzhen here.

January 26, 2010 11:24 AM
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