Wang Cuiyun, a 69-year-old granny’s last photo, a few hours later, she was buried alive in the ditch. Behind her was a 3-stories building in which live her and 17 family members, which was why granny opened her arms trying to stop the excavator with her own body. She somehow went into the ditch, while operator on the excavator went on shoveling and buried her with a load of earth.
The tragedy happened in Maodian Village, Huangpi District, Wuhan City on March 3rd. Though granny’s family was the last nail household （钉子户） in the requisitioned area, they gave up after a year of resisting and prepared to sign the demolition agreement just a day before the tragedy.
The reason they stayed on, according to Chen Yongfa, granny’s second son, was unfair compensation. He said the building had 398 m2 in construction area, they were promised only ￥106/m2 plus 1:1 new house in relatively remote area as compensation, but the market value is over ￥3000/m2 now. So they nailed on to bargain while other villagers left around October last year for fear of further demolition violence. Because related departments would do whatever they could think of to evacuate nail households. Some villagers were cut off from water and power supply, some got feces splashed in doorway, and some got beaten up. Villager Gong didn’t move early, some guys knocked on their door in the middle of the night and beat his wife; while Villager Xiong Jiliu’s 6-wheel farm truck got punctured by someone for 3 consecutive nights.
Chen Yongfa said, on March 1st there were 20-30 apparently street thugs came to their property and started digging ditch around their house with the intention to cut their path off, which was photographed as record by his brother. On the same day, his family decided to fight no more and made a phone call to Party Secretary Wang who’s in charge, he said: “we have an appointment with him that he will send someone here tomorrow to sign the agreement with us. The Chen family finished packing the next day, but no one came to conclude the deal as appointed.”
Local officials claimed it was accident. Police department stepped in to investigate and assumed that granny slipped into the ditch and got buried by earth slide on the side. While the administrative office of Maodian Village suggested two possibilities, according to committee Xie Shuanglian, one was that granny slipped into the ditch, the other was that granny jumped into the ditch to stop the operation. She added that granny was buried by earth slide instead of loads in the shovel, and that granny was still alive when rescue but died in the hospital.
Later, police told reporter that witnesses had been found. Wei Yinggui was brought to the police on March 9th and did a 6-page long testimony. The next day he said that he was there witnessing the whole accident: “the workers forcing their way in, and granny was protesting the whole time trying to stop the machine destroying her building, but she was ignored. I was standing aside at the time, granny went down to the ditch when realize she couldn’t stop them, and the operator in the excavator took a load of earth and covered her.” When asked whether the operator did it on purpose, the witnessed nodded and said: “he saw someone jump in.” He also said: “they don’t allow me to talk, but what I am is truth and I will bear legal responsibility for it.”
Family accused police on spot for doing nothing to rescue granny. Chen Yongfa claimed he kneeled down to two policemen on the spot but they did not even move. His claim was denied by officials who said it was the police that went into the ditch and dialed 120 for ambulance and also sent granny to hospital with police car. Witness Wei Yinggui confirmed that police did participate in rescue.
Now the leader of the demolition and the operator of the excavator were held by the police, while granny’s body cremated March 6th. Settlement negotiation began right after the accident. Rumor had it in the village that Chen family got five 160 m2 houses and 600,000 yuan as compensation, which engendered some villagers’ envy who thought the government was being unfair to those who cooperate to move early by compromising so much for the last nail household. Reporter contacted Chen Yongfa the second son who confirmed about the compensation by remained unsatisfied and claimed they were force to sign.
Maodian Villagers revealed that the demolition was for the reconstruction of a large scale food industry town by Qianji Company. One cadre in Wangpi District said that the reason “3.3 accident” was so sensitive was connected to China’s biggest Taiwan peasant innovation base at national level; the demolition and reconstruction of Qianji food town was only tip of a huge construction iceberg. The base is said to be 240 km2, and will attract an array of leading corporations in to develop into a ten-billion business base as China’s agriculture valley in 3 to 5 years.
However, how thrived the district will be or how large the new home is means nothing to granny.