The arrest of an old farmer who fiercely resisted forced eviction in the east China city of Suzhou has provoked an outcry on China’s social media.
Local newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily reported that Fan Mugen, a 64-year farmer and veteran, killed two demolition officials with a knife after he, his wife and son were beaten in a suburb of Suzhou, a city near Shanghai, on 3 December 2013. Many netizens on China’s Twitter-like Weibo argued the killings could be justified as self-defense and cautioned Fan would be sentenced to death.
More than fifty lawyers and citizens across the country went to the hospital [zh] to see Fan’s injured and detained wife but were blocked by numerous policemen on December 22.
Southern Metropolis Daily said [zh] Fan’s home is the only one left unmoved in his village due to disagreement about reduced payment. He began to petition in 2004 and has gone to Beijing twice to petition this year. Fan has left a testament to being forced to sign the demolition agreement in November. Fan is also a Communist Party member.
It reminds many netizens of the death penalty of Xia Junfeng, a street vendor convicted of killing two chengguan, or urban-management policemen, and executed in September despite public calls for leniency, disappointing many legal activists who said the country's justice system fails to protect the underprivileged and punishes them too harshly. Many people argued Xia’s behavior should belong to self-defense for he had suffered brutal beating.
The citizen rights center of Suzhou updated netizens on the latest developments via its Weibo account:
More than fifty lawyers and citizens go to see Gu Panzhen, Fan Mugen’s wife, in the People’s Hospital of High-tech Zone, Suzhou. Fan has been arrested for intentional injury after he killed two attackers to protect family. Gu is treated in hospital after her arm was broken by the intruders. Suzhou auxiliary police are lining up at the hospital!
Human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan explained the background of Fan's family and hinted that the incident is an act of self-defense:
Candidate for the person of the year 2013, Fan Mugen, a farmer of Suzhou, joined the army in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region when he was young. He had been out of his home for a month to avoid demolition since the end of October and went back home on 2 December. On 3 Dec the relocation company staff went to Fan’s home again to force him to leave. He killed two intruders when his head was fractured, his son’s head was injured and his wife’s right hand was broken. It’s the largest bloody demolition this year.
Independent writer Wang Qingfu argued that Fan is a hero:
Fan Mugen's is typically justified defense. He is a hero for resisting power!
Weibo user, “Jiang Nan school kid” echoed Wang:
Fan is a great soldier. He dared to kill two mobsters with a knife. Many people applaud his action! Many people respect his audacity of heart! He did what many people want to but dare not do. Many victims in forced evictions have felt desperate when confronting the triad-like demolition office, buck-passing of the government, and the indifference of police.
Yang Cuifang urged the public to pay attention to the incident:
Pay attention to the courageous man who tried to protect his wife, children and home. Pay attention to grassroots anti-violence and the trend of this issue. Witness the toughness of every person’s living.
Forced demolitions have been a deeply divisive issue in China in recent years. Local governments rely on land sales for a significant portion of their revenues, creating a big incentive to push out homeowners and small businesses for redevelopment projects.