Yet another land requisition project has ended in violence
This Monday, a township official in Zhejiang province, Mei Jianfeng, was set on fire after outraged villagers threw gasoline-filled bottles at him. According to the Beijing News, this incident happened in Xiafang village following months of disputes over land requisitions between the villagers and the Wantian township government—the level of government that Mei was representing.
The villagers were enraged over a project related to dikes along the nearby Qu River, as they were being told to leave their land and they felt they weren’t getting sufficient compensation.
Documents obtained from the website of Ministry of Land and Resources show the deadline of handing over the land of Xiafang village was July 10, one day before the incident occurred.
In an online footage taken at the scene, dozens of agitated villagers were protesting with banners and flags which demanded the township government act in accordance with local laws and regulations. Large flames on the ground were visible. A man with his upper body on fire can be seen rushing into the crowd.
An official statement by the government of Kecheng, a district of the city of Quzhou that governs the township and village, has confirmed that the burn victim was Mei Jianfeng. Mei, as the head of Wantian township, was assessing the land for a project in Xiafang village along with his staff before the accident.
The land they assessed was reportedly to be forcefully requisitioned against the will of the local residents. A Xiafang villager told news portal Sohu, during physical conflicts between government officials and the villagers, Mei pushed down an elder of over 90 years old. In retaliation, the villagers started throwing gasoline at Mei. The fire didn’t start until Mei stepped back and stumbled across lit candles on the side of the road.
Another villager surnamed Wan was interviewed by Beijing News. He said that before this incident, the villagers had heard about an upcoming forced requisition. Being continuously “harassed” by the township government after multiple failed negotiations, the villagers decided to “end it in common ruin.”
On the early morning of July 11, more than 200 villagers, including the elderly and women with children gathered outside the village. Meanwhile, the township government, public security office, and the armed police sent over 400 people in total to take down the sheds at the village entrance built by the villagers to protect the Xiafang site. In the recent months, the villagers have been taking turns to live in the sheds and guard the village. They have also been lighting candles and burning joss papers to pray for blessings from ancestors, which eventually set the head of township on fire.
Mei, the victim in this accident, had been listed by the Kecheng government as one of their “10 most capable officials”. He was said to be “at the front line during every land requisition case”, and work “5+2” (7 days a week), “black and white” (24 hours).
The Kecheng government has denied any direct connections between this incident and the forced land requisitions.