(April 27, 2010) After trying for several years to force a local government in Sichuan Province to leave his family’s home alone, Luo Qihui, 36, poured gasoline all over his body Saturday and threatened to light himself on fire soon after construction workers arrived to demolish his property.
Luo, his two brothers and other family members wanted to stop the Pubugou Hydropower Station from passing through their home. The water level is expected to reach 850 meters this year and part of Dashu township in Ya’an may be flooded.
Luo’s brother, Luo Qidian, 41, plus the eight other family members, were asked to follow about 100,000 other villagers out in 2008 to make way for the project.
They declined. At 9 am Saturday, trucks and excavators surrounded their home.
The three brothers hung several bottles of gasoline outside their home, and placed gas tanks on the roof, according to Luo’s older brother.
One of the three went an extra step.
“My youngest brother held a bottle and poured the gasoline over his body to warn the police to go away from us. We had no choice but to resist with our life and even death,” Luo Qidian told the Global Times Monday.
The younger brother was later detained.
At about 5 am Sunday, both sides reached an agreement. The authorities promised to pay a total of 90,000 yuan ($13,181), much more than the 3,000 yuan ($439) they offered to pay each of the three families. They originally asked for 150,000 yuan ($21,969) for each family.
In addition, each of the three brothers got an apartment in Jiuxiang township. And each person was allocated 1/4 acre of land, much less than the land they had before.
Li Hong, the township chief, said the protestor was detained because he broke a law.
“They were not satisfied with the compensation, but now we have reached a consensus and they agreed to move,” Li told the Global Times Sunday.
The family still held mixed views Monday because they would not be able to earn the same living through farming near their new homes.
The new home sits at an elevated level and is not so suitable for rice, garlic, or peppers, which they grow and sell at local markets.
The project began in 2004 and was halted a year later due to protests from local residents.
After the government promised to compensate them, things moved along in 2006.
After stalling for two years, the Luo family finally moved on Sunday. But they became popular for their brave attitude as hundreds of villagers gathered to watch police and workers surround the family.
A local resident, who refused to be identified, told the Global Times that other villagers were surprised at night.
“Many demolitions were carried out that way and some people got injured in the conflict,” the villager said.
The national government has introduced regulations and rules to curb aggressive demolitions that have led to unrest and even deaths. However, some local governments found themselves in a dilemma because some government projects to boost economic development sometimes left local residents no choice but to abandon their longtime homes.
According to Li, the township chief, the hydropower project is listed as a national key project, with the largest storage capacity and maximum power generation capacity along the Dadu River. However, 15 townships, 48 villages and Hanyuan county were affected by the project.
“Many people couldn’t understand the policy or even misunderstood it, which increased the difficulty in carrying out our work,” Li said, declining to confirm the villager’s allegation about the forced demolition.
Deng Jingyin, Global Times, April 27, 2010
Further Reading from Reuters: “Some 12.5 million Chinese citizens have been moved for 86,000 dams since 1949, according to one recent study. These dam migrants have long fanned festering unrest.” Read the full story here.
Further Reading from Probe International:
- Violence erupts at Chinese dam: Exclusive Report from Probe International
- Mounting tensions over the Mekong river
- Dams portend grim future for Mekong Delta: experts
- China rejects Mekong River dam criticism
- Flood of fears over China’s projects
- China’s shadow looms over the Mekong
- Countries blame China, not nature, for water shortage
- Southeast Asia drought triggers debate over region’s water resources
- Blame on Chinese dams rise as Mekong River dries up