Wuhan Farmer Repels Forced Eviction Team With Homemade Weapons

(Dahe)  Wuhan farmer emulates "Avatar" and uses homemade cannon to repel 100-man-strong eviction team

Yang Youde is a farmer who had contracted to rent 25 mu of land.  The lease was set to continue until 2019.  Over the years, Yang has been raising fish, cattle, cotton, melons and fruits on the land.

Last year, Yang Youde learned that his land had been requisitioned.  Since the compensation terms for breaking the contract had not been settled, he has refused to move out.

Personal interests are trivial, but failure to implement official policies is serious
Outsiders must not enter/exit at will, or they will be responsible for any accident that happen to them

"The evictors said many times that they will move on me."  Earlier this year, Yang took measures to protect himself.  He took a hand-truck and removed the front.  Then he put in a set of rockets for use as an artillery battery.

On February 26 this year, a team of more than 30 evictors approached his site ready to demolish his house by force.  "At the time, I set off the rockets.  They hid behind the bulldozer.  After the rockets were all fired off, they came out and administered a thrashing on Yang.   But they did not bulldoze the house immediately.  Instead, they only said that they will come back and finish the job.  Afterwards, Yang upgraded his defense by building an "cannon tower" with help from friends and relatives.

On May 25 this year, a team of more than 100 evictors wearing helmets and carrying shields approached his home behind bulldozers and earth diggers.  "As soon as I spotted them, I got on the 'cannon tower" and fired several shots at them.  They stopped.  The police then showed up and chased them away."

During the interview with our reporter, Yang Youde reiterated that he was not a nail house owner.  "A nail householder is someone who is extorting a sky-high price.  I only want a price that is in accordance with government policy."

Retaliation and revenge is not allowed by government policy and law

Open and fair actions in accordance with the law
Oppose using public power for personal reasons

Yang Youde said that he will continue to stand up against the evictors.  He has "researched and developed" new weapons such as "petrol bombs."  He has also set up a couch on the cannon tower so that he can be on vigil twenty-four hours a day.


Of course, it is dangerous to run a news report just talking to one party but not the other.  That would not meet the "fair and balanced" requirement in journalism.  Here is a news report in which other parties were interviewed.

(Qilu Hotline)  June 9, 2010.

According to Yang Youde, he had leased 25 mu of land.  The lease is due to expire in 2029.  During that time, he could use the land to raise fish and food crops.  Then the Hengda Company requisitioned the land for a project.  An agreement was reached between Yang and the company in 2006 for 11.78 mu of the land, but the remaining land was still pending.

According to the Jinyinhu Ecological Park management, the remaining 13.23 mu of fish pond should be compensated at 2,480 yuan per mu plus compensation for the production facilities.  The total amount should be 75,919 mu.  The offer was later raised to 130,977 yuan.

But Yang Youde found the offer unacceptable.  He said that Document 46 from the Hubei government in 2009 that the standard compensation price for the Dongxihu district where Jinyinhu is located should be 46,800 yuan per mu.

So the two sides could not reach an agreement.  Yang Youde said that he heard the other party was going to do it "by force."  So he prepared some fireworks for self-defense.  On February 6, a team of several dozen evictors appeared.  He ignited his home-made rockets and aimed them at the evictors.  But when all the rockets were fired, the evictors came forward and administered a beating on him.  On that day, he got help from his friends and relatives to build a "cannon tower" as well as improved his rockets.

On May 25, Yang Youde said that several dozen men came armed with shields and helmets behind bulldozers.  This time, Yang Youde fired several shots.  Before firing, he used a megaphone to declare aloud: "I kept mentioning Document 46 (2009) and the lack of an agreement about the land."  At the same time, he yelled, "This is going to cause injuries on both sides."  Yang Youde said that he was forced to open fire when the evictors continued to advance.

Yesterday morning, Yang Youde was summoned to appear at the Jinyinhu police station.  The police said that they wanted to understand the situation.  The Jinyinhu Ecological Park management said that the police are investigating the incident of Yang Youde attacking the construction workers with his homemade cannon.

Yang Youde said that the police told him that his actions were in violation of public safety regulations.  But they were considerate and only wanted him to sign a statement that he won't do anything illegal in the future.

Yang Youde said that he was willing to sign the statement.  But he thought that "both sides had acted illegally."  He said that if the eviction team were to reappear, he would fight back again.  He asked for a additional clause that "I will not be the first to bring the law" in the statement.  The police discussed with him and ultimately agreed to let him add that sentence into the statement.

Yang Youde said that the police also asked him where he got the firecrackers.  He said that the bought it at the market.  On the day before yesterday, four policemen came to his home and told him to hand over this firecrackers because of violation of the public safety regulations.  Yang Youde handed over five firecrackers.  Yesterday, he asked the police to provide him with a written statement on the confiscation of those firecrackers.

Yang Youde also said that the police asked him whether he injured anyone during the two occasions when he fought off the evictors.  He said that his rockets were aimed at the sky or behind the people.  Therefore, nobody has been hurt.

Yesterday, the Jinyinhu Ecological Park said that there were no teams of evictors as claimed by Yang Youde.  Yang Youde had attacked the construction workers sent by the Hengda Company.  On February 6 and May 25 this year, Hengda Company had sent construction workers to level the 11.78 mu of land that an agreement was reached between the company and Yang Youde in 2006.  But when the workers tried to level that fish pond, Yang Youde fired rockets at them.

Yang Youde said that the workers came near his house on May 25.  He claimed that the targets of the evictors both times were the unsigned 13.23 mu of land and the house that he built on it.

(Al Jazeera blog)  Lessons learned on the road    Melissa Chan    July 2, 2010

The David and Goliath story of Yang Youde, the farmer who decided to fight off land eviction teams with his homemade cannon, attracted our attention and the team flew down to learn more. What follows are details that didn't manage to make into our broadcast report, but which I feel are important as they highlight issues concerning domestic media censorship and local government operations.

A mystery vehicle followed us after our morning visit with Farmer Yang, all the way back to Wuhan city proper. Five minutes after returning to my hotel room, I was told some officials were waiting to speak to us.  I walked into the hotel lounge -- and lo! Seven of them.

We sat down and a woman began to explain that the initial local news article appearing in Changjiang Times about Yang Youde was incorrect because the journalist only spoke to the farmer and never approached officials for the other side of the story.  She went on to say that after her department spoke with the editors, the newspaper printed a retraction the next day, though word had already proliferated online.

Her office took great pains, she said, to kill the fraudulent story from 211 domestic Chinese websites. She concluded that since it's settled that the story of Yang Youde is a fake, then by implication Al Jazeera English's report would be perpetuating a lie.

Now, before our arrival to Wuhan, we had called the said journalist from the Changjiang Times. He sounded depressed and morose, and said he could not assist us in our story.

The woman then went on to point out that other journalists, including one from Chinese state media giant Xinhua, had shown up for the story of the farmer and his cannon as well. But all of them had been set right on the facts by local officials. They'd all left without publishing a thing.

A second official interjected, a Mr. Fan Chun, carrying a load of documents in hand. I welcomed the rare opportunity to sit down with officials to hear their side of the story. Far too often, we place calls to various government departments and never hear back from any of them. Mr. Fan allowed us to look over the documents, in one which mentioned the local government would stand to benefit by some $95 million US dollars by allowing the land development project to proceed.

"This is interesting! Can we photocopy this?" we asked.

"Er. No," said Mr. Fan.

The documents quickly got pulled aside.

Mr. Fan then explained to us that China is a socialist society and farmers do not own property. The state owns property. Everything is collectivized. Therefore, Farmer Yang's demand for compensation stands no ground.

The real estate market makes up 10% of China's GDP. 

We then asked if we could have an on-camera interview with an official from the Dongxihu District. No one present would give us a response. But after pressing the issue, they said they would get back to us later in the evening.

The following day, officials did not arrange an interview but a surprise press conference. Domestic journalists from Wuhan Television were also there, filming the proceedings. They did not ask a single question, so the press conference was essentially a conversation between myself and a Mr. Feng Mi, the official who appears in our broadcast.

My first question was whether the entire contents of the Changjiang Times article were "100% incorrect." Mr. Feng did not answer this, but did emphasize that the men who showed up near Mr. Yang's property were not from an eviction team. He did confirm there was a team of men who had shown up "near, but not on" Mr. Yang's property.

Farmer Yang had told us he'd been thrown into an unauthorized prison for 51 days, where he'd been beaten eight times. I asked Mr. Feng what he knew about it.

The official explained that Farmer Yang attended political education classes, a requirement of all farmers in the district.

Al Jazeera saw a copy of Farmer Yang's receipt detailing the personal effects he had to give up to attend these classes. Listed were his belt and mobile phone. I admit political education classes in China are unfamiliar territory, so perhaps it is standard for students to strip down for attendance.

Our exchange lasted about half an hour. On our way out the government building... we noticed the offices of the land developers on the ground floor.

It has been a few days since our reporting trip. We received a call from Farmer Yang, who told us men had not stopped showing up at his home to harass him ever since our interview. He said they interrogated and recorded each session.  Farmer Yang also claimed a Dongxihu official took pains to fly down to Guangdong Province, about a two-hour flight away, to visit Farmer Yang's son in the military. A word was had with the military commander there, and a warning given to Yang Jr.

Right before this report aired, Farmer Yang called us again. Unidentified men had come, but in a case of mistaken identity went after his older brother. They beat the man on the face with bricks, and the brother was unable to see out of one eye and was sent to hospital.

We have called Dongxihu officials about Farmer Yang's continued harassment. They deny any knowledge of what's been happening, and suggested perhaps Farmer Yang was lying. In an attempt to fact check, we asked Farmer Yang to send us some evidence. See below.

(AsiaOne News) Rocket firing farmer's kin thrashed    July 1, 2010.

A farmer who recently made headlines for firing homemade rockets to expel demolition corps from his land returned to defend his farm on Wednesday, a day after four unidentified men assaulted his brother.

Since February, Yang Youde, a 56-year-old farmer on the outskirts of Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei province, has twice fired rocket-like weapons at demolition teams who came to evict him from his property to make way for the construction of commercial buildings.

Yang told China Daily on Wednesday that he had asked his elder brother to guard his land while he was away filing a petition in court. "The four men must have mistaken him for me and attacked him around 7 am on Tuesday," he said.  "My brother said he was first punched. The assailants then pounced on him and smashed a brick on his head."

Yang's 60-year-old brother, Yang Yide, has been hospitalized with serious eye injuries. He added that forensic doctors were assessing the degree of his injury.

Meanwhile, Yang Youde returned to his farmland to safeguard his property. "I must hold on to my position and prevent any intrusion," said Yang, standing on an 8-meter-high tower, where his ammunition was piled up.

The police have warned him that the possession and use of any explosive is illegal.

Yang said the demolition corps harassed him a couple of times after his demand of 46,800 yuan (S$9,640) per mu (0.07 hectare) in compensation for his 25 mu land was turned down. He said the property developer was only willing to pay him 10,000 yuan per mu.

Yang leased the land from the local government and is its rightful owner until 2029. "Some farmers have died protecting their rights. Compared to them, we have just been injured," Yang said, adding that he would not give up.

Officials from the Wuhan Land Resources and Planning Bureau visited Yang's family in a bid to mediate the dispute, but Yang maintained he was not ready to accept any offer below his demand.

One of Yang's fellow villagers, surnamed Wang, said Yang's aggression might just win him more compensation for his land.

Yang said a Beijing lawyer named Wang Youyin has approached him and is ready to assist him take the case to court.