Debris on the street after a suicide bombing in Yunnan on May 10 in protest of a land demoltion
The forcible acquisition of my land 10 years ago remains a bitter memory. My protest at the time was so weak in front of a team of armed security officers and a few government officials. I was detained for several hours.
A decade on from that dark time, I face a similar fate.
Some of my neighbors and I were recently notified that a group of illegal structures must be removed because they produce “visual pollution” to drivers on a nearby national highway. My shop is one of those pollutants.
It is true that illegal structures pose several risks, but isn’t their existence for so many years the result of tacit agreement by the local government to boost the economy for their own merits?
Our government has never made long-term development plans. Tackling “visual pollution” is merely another vanity project of the officials to burnish their own images.
In fact, there are illegal structures owned by powerful figures remaining in the neighborhood. Only those without backing are to be demolished.
Any judicial or political movement that is not people-oriented is indeed rascalism. The officials may not aware that the demolition can destroy a family’s life, a person’s hope or even a person’s future.
In China, forcible demolition and land acquisition are twin brothers. They are among the major conflicts between farmers and the vested interest of the authorities, and one of the major factors contributing to social instability.
While I was worrying over my looming unemployment, a suicide bomb exploded in Yunnan province during a protest against forced demolition on May 10.
This news spread widely through internet forums and social media sites.
A mother surnamed Li from Qiaojia county allegedly carried her one-year-old child to the resettlement office. She ignited a bomb to protest against forced demolition of her home. The incident killed four and injured another 16.
I dared not imagine the bloody scene. I would not go to that extreme. But I understand how desperate and helpless she must have felt to end her precious life and that of her child in such an act.
After the tragedy, the first thing the local government did was to control the media. It was as ridiculous and sad as the excuse of “visual pollution.”
The news later reported that the injured and the victims’ family were emotionally stable. The alleged bomber was a post-80’s young man instead of a woman. The asocial suspect perpetrated the bombing as an act of revenge against society, with no reference to the forced demolition.
As long as things are under control, demolitions can continue. In fact, bloggers and others online now refer to China using the transliteration Chai-na-er, which beams “demolish there.”
After the suicide bombing, the local government then set up working groups to investigate the incident further. I am not sure who will be the unlucky scapegoat to hide the incompetence of the government. But in online forums, people blame the resettlement office and the vested interest groups that rob civilians’ properties.
Chinese people are wiser and more civilized now. Using stupid explanations to refute rumors cannot convince the public.
No matter what the truth is, forced demolition and acquisition go on. Resistance to them has evolved from individual protests a dozen years ago to acts of self-immolation and now suicide bombings.
It seems that the general public has lost the battle against strong vested interest groups.
But as an old Chinese expression explains, “When you join the game, you will pay back sooner or later.”
History tends to favor the people, as they are the ones who push for change over time.
I believe the strength of the future China is not forcible demolition or acquisition, nor forced disappearance, but a growing resoluteness of the people.
Yunnan Xianju is the pen name of a Catholic blogger in mainland China
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