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Forcible eviction sparks outcry over property rights
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  • http://english.dbw.cn銆€銆€ 2010-09-20 11:03:21

    The death of an old man who set himself on fire to protest against the demolition of a home in east China's Jiangxi Province has sparked public anger and outcry over long-awaited revisions to existing laws to better protect private property.

    Ye Zhongcheng, 79, died Saturday morning, eight days after he doused himself in petrol while confronting workers who planned to demolish the three-story house of his friend's family in Fenggang Township, Yihuang County of Fuzhou City on Sept. 10.

    The house, built in 1999, was owned by a family surnamed Zhong but was ordered to be demolished to make way for a bus terminal. Owners of 20 of all 21 homes in the area had accepted compensation and moved but the Zhong's demanded 3 million yuan in compensation, six times the 400,000-yuan offer made by the government-backed development company.

    The Zhong's said their demand was in line with the market price.

    Compensation has long been at the core of demolition disputes in China, where land is owned by the state.

    Amid heated exchanges, Ye, a close friend of the Zhong family, climbed to the top of the building with Zhong Ruqin and Luo Zhifeng, Zhong's mother, and set themselves alight. Zhong and Luo were seriously injured.

    The tragedy was widely reported on the Internet over the past week, with text, photos and video of the scene being posted by surviving members of the Zhong family and witnesses on microblogs.

    The local government announced on Saturday that eight officials had been removed from their posts or placed under investigation over the property row.

    Among the penalized officials were the county's Party chief, head and deputy head of the county government, as well as chiefs of the local housing administration, construction, transport and public security departments, according to a spokesman with Fuzhou municipal government.

    Zhong Rujiu, the youngest daughter of the family, said in her microblog Sunday her mother and sister were undergoing surgery and three top officials of Fuzhou City had visited them at the hospital with promises of good medical treatment and solutions to all their problems.

    Thousands of people had followed Zhong's microblog at, posting words of sympathy and comfort and urging government actions to prevent such tragedies.

    Suicides over property rows are not rare in China.

    Last year, a 47-year-old woman died in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, 16 days after she doused body in petrol and set herself alight on the roof of her home as workers had broken in and threatened to demolish the house.

    In June 2008, Pan Rong and her husband stood on the roof of their house in Shanghai and threw a Molotov cocktail at an approaching bulldozer.

    Pan's efforts to protect her home failed at last when the bulldozer destroyed the walls, forcing the couple away from the house.

    In both cases, the local governments insisted that the forced demolitions were lawful.

    China's existing demolition regulation took effect in 2001, granting the forced demolition.

    The recent tragedy has again sparked an outcry for revisions to demolition rules to better protect private property.

    In December 2009, five scholars claimed, in an open letter to the National People's Congress, China's parliament, the current demolition regulation was unconstitutional and violated the Property Rights Law.

    A new draft regulation was issued in January, stipulating that Chinese residents whose homes are to be demolished for redevelopment should be paid market prices and can sue over disputes before any demolition.

    It said local government should, by holding hearings or adopting other dispute resolution methods, ensure that the aggrieved have the chance to argue their case.

    The "draft regulation on expropriation of houses on state-owned land and relevant compensation" was posted on the website of the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, to solicit public opinions till Feb. 12.

    While developers argued the new draft had made any demolition difficult, if not impossible, law professor Fei Anling from China University of Political Science and Law said it was crucial to involve a third and neutral party to draft and implement the law to ensure fairness.

    "It concerns citizens' rights and interest, as well as the benefits of the local government. An independent committee should therefore be entrusted to revise the rules and make sure it is properly implemented."

    Author锛? 銆€銆€銆€Source锛? xinhua 銆€銆€銆€ Editor锛? Yang Fan
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