05/02/2016, 11.06
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Hainan, women and children beaten for trying to stop village demolition

by John Ai

A video posted on a national social network forces the government into rare public apology for the incident. The officials, however, insist on  "zero tolerance" against illegally built structures. The video of the beating.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - A group of security guards savagely and indiscriminately attacked a group of residents of Haikou, in the southern province of Hainan, who wanted to prevent the demolition of their homes. The video that portrays the scene was posted on Weibo – a very popular social network in China - and show the agents using clubs, bars and batons even on women and children.  It has sparked public indignation and in a very rare move the local government has had to apologize publically for the incident.

According to local newspaper Daily Haikou, on 29 April the authorities of Xiuying District  deployed about 1,200 workers and security guards to Qionghua village - which is part of Haikou metropolitan area - in order to demolish 104 buildings. These were built illegally in an area of ​​25 thousand square meters. The demolition - the largest of the year - was supposed to last two days.

The authorities had also accused the residents of buying land illegally and of having built on arable land: in this way they "occupied spaces for urban development" and "damaged the public interest". The Haikou Daily points out that it is a decision taken in the context of the "zero tolerance" towards illegal construction.

On the morning of Saturday 30 April, the conflict broke out. According to government officials, it came about because some residents "threw bricks, lit fireworks and set on gas cylinders flames" in order to "violently resist the law." Police arrested 11 people and ordered the staff to continue to demolish homes. At the same time, however, a video of the beating began circulating on social networks.

Forced to take action because of the wave of public outrage, the official media have admitted the incorrect "behavior" of the teams: seven security guards were arrested and their boss fired. The local government has apologized and announced it would visit the homes of the victims to ask forgiveness and bring consolation to the wounded. However, officials added that the demolition of illegal structures "remains strong" and that the violent resistance to these decisions "will be swept away".

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