After Forced Evictions, a Nightmare of Red Tape

Forced demolitions have been labelled China’s greatest source of social unrest; Amnesty International reports that evictions have given rise to over 40 self-immolation protests in recent years. At 2Non—”Non Fiction Non Profit”, a new China-focused non-profit media organisation—ChinaGeeks’ Charles Custer tells the stories of some of the many victims who have struggled to win legal redress, and examines the roots of local governments’ “addiction” to land seizures.

On June 30, 2003, the deputy chair of the Wuxi New District Court burst through the door of Wu Xingyuan’s family home. Following the court official were police officers, demolition workers and other men Wu couldn’t identify. They began carrying Wu’s possessions out of the house. Within just three hours, the building had been razed to the ground, and most of the Wu family’s possessions had disappeared. But that was just the beginning. Nearly a decade later, Wu’s case remains unresolved. His family, which had been operating a highly profitable business out of Wu’s sizable home, is now significantly poorer. And Wu himself has grown tired and more than a little paranoid after waging a decade-long battle for justice with authorities.

Wu’s troubles began in the spring of 2003, when local authorities decided to demolish his house. Wu claims that the decision to demolish his home was an act of revenge because he had previously reported a local Party official for corruption. This claim proved impossible to confirm — we were unable to get in touch with the specific officials Wu named and the Wuxi police declined to comment — but whatever the reason for the demolition, it’s clear Wu was offered very unfavorable terms. In compensation for his 537 square meter house, he was told he could have one 120 square meter apartment. “Even Hu Jintao wouldn’t make that deal,” Wu told us. “No one would agree to that.”

During the actual demolition, Wu and his family were physically restrained, but as soon as they got free they went to court. The first case opened in July, and even though the demolition had been illegal (officials had failed to obtain the proper permits) and Wu had proof that many of his possessions had mysteriously gone missing the day of the family’s forced relocation, the court found against him.

Well-known singer Zuoxiao Zuzhou, meanwhile, is fighting to stop the demolition of his home in Changzhou. China Media Project’s Comic China series includes a cartoon posted to Sina Weibo in support, showing the singer brandishing a megaphone and a clenched fist on the roof of a building marked for destruction.