Scuffles broke out on Tuesday over the demolition of a house in the Haidian district of Beijing. Several elderly people were injured.

At around 4am, at least 100 men wearing black uniforms and helmets came to 38-year-old Chen Baojing’s courtyard house. Chen told HKFP that the men were carrying riot shields and had arrived with heavy machinery and a fire truck. They then surrounded his home and directed water cannons at the building, using machinery to dismantle the walls surrounding the property.

The forced demolition of Chen Baojing’s house. Photo: Canyu.

Chen – who is disabled – said that his 80-year-old mother was hurt when a man pressed her to the ground using his riot shield. A tussle broke out when the men tried to forcibly enter his house.

After Chen called his friends to help, he said that around 20-30 people showed up, most of them elderly people. Fights with the demolition team broke out, leading to some injuries, including a 60-year-old man named Sun and another named Liu.

“My life was threatened today,” Chen told HKFP by phone, “my arm is injured.”

Mr. Liu’s eye was injured in the scuffle. Photo: provided by Chen Baojing.

Nearby residents have posted pictures and video on Weibo and WeChat. One resident who on the scene told HKFP that the police brought the injured individuals to a police station to take statements.

Photo: Screenshot from Weibo.

Chen says his property is classified as Zhaijidi, meaning “the land on which farmer’s houses are built”. According to Chen, he was offered up to RMB40,0000 (HK$47,000) for the property, and a smaller dwelling to replace his home. He claims that no prior notice was given before the demolition action.

Speaking from inside his home Tuesday afternoon, Chen said that the men had surrounded his property, not letting anyone in the five-person household leave, including his eight-year-old son. The standoff continued into the night.

At around 8:30pm on Tuesday night, Chen said around 20 people forcibly entered his house by breaking down the door. His mother was blocking the door on the other side and was injured in the incident.

Chen said he was also suffered injuries from broken glass when the demolishers started smashing windows. She was hospitalised and, by Tuesday morning, the men were still negotiating with Chen, who refuses to leave.

According to a report from Amnesty International, forced evictions are common in China.

“This case is typical of eviction by violence,” Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International, said in an email. “Forced land eviction and demolition is happening every day in China. Very often, it involves violence against the victims.”

Chen’s cuts from broken glass; the damage at his home on Wednesday. Photos: Chen Baojing.

“Despite the law requires that the government should negotiate the compensation for land evictions, it’s common to see forced eviction and demolition even without any negotiation with the affected people, very often due to vested interests of local officials in redevelopment projects,” wrote Poon.

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Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.