Chinese laws bring reduction in forced demolition

Chinese laws bring reduction in forced demolition
People watch a house being demolished in Wenling cityk, Zhejiang province, after its owner reached an agreement with the local government.

New rules help keep violent incidents and confrontations in check, Tang Yue reports in Beijing.

For years, journalist Chen Baocheng wrote about other people's lives, covering stories on the judiciary and law enforcement issues.

However, the 34-year-old recently found himself in the headlines. In August, the Beijing reporter was briefly detained for allegedly holding a man against his will for a day during a protest over forced home demolitions in Chen's hometown of Pingdu, Shandong province.

Police claimed that Chen and a number of his fellow villagers had poured several bottles of gasoline over the man, a construction worker, and threatened to set him on fire. Chen was formally arrested last month, but as yet it is unclear whether he will face trial.

The story became a hot topic on Chinese social media. One observer, Li Gang, was more interested than the average news follower because the case reminded him of his own experiences.

Li, who is the same age as Chen, is also a reporter, but in Shanghai. Three years ago, his family home in Kaiyuan, Liaoning province, was demolished and the adjoining farmland was reclaimed by the local government without the family's consent. The move followed a three-year stalemate over compensation, Li said.

"One day they (the demolition team) just broke in early in the morning and drove my mother and my grandfather away from the house. I was in Shanghai and the news worried me greatly," he said.

"The government held my mother and grandfather in a hotel for a couple of days, until the officials were certain they wouldn't do anything extreme, such as setting themselves on fire."

When he heard the news, Li immediately joined a group of fellow villagers and travelled to a number of petition offices in Beijing. His mother went to Shenyang, the provincial capital, and moved in with her daughter and son-in-law, while his grandfather went to a nursing home, where he died last year at the age of 92.

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