Farmer defends his turf with rockets

By YAN JIE and ZHOU LIHUA (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-08 09:26
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WUHAN - A Chinese farmer has resorted to the use of shock tactics to defend his right to land ownership by using improvised rockets to expel demolition corps that have threatened to evict him for the construction of commercial buildings.

Farmer defends his turf with rockets

Since February, Yang Youde, a 56-year-old farmer living on the outskirts of Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei province, has foiled two attempts to flatten his hut by using rocket-like weapons he has made himself.

"I shot only over their heads to frighten them, " said Yang. "I didn't want to cause any injuries."

The rockets, made from fireworks Yang bought from a local market, could reach up to 100 meters and make a deafening sound, as was shown in a mock attack.

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Local police had come to persuade him to hand in the rockets, citing laws regulating highly inflammable and explosive materials. But Yang refused and insisted that they are only fireworks.

In early February, some 30 demolition workers tried to evict Yang. They hid behind the excavators when Yang set off fireworks aimed at them.

"When the fireworks ran out, they came over and beat me," said Yang.

The police came to his rescue after nearby residents made calls and the police dispersed the workers, according to Yang.

In late May, Yang withstood the second offensive of the demolition corps on a shoddy watchtower until the police arrived. More than 100 people were deterred after he fired several shots of the rockets.

Yang said he was prepared to protect himself early this year after negotiations with local authorities over compensation for his use of the land failed and demolition workers hired by the property developer threatened to use force.

The farmland nearby has almost all been requisitioned for the construction of department buildings. And the developer seems eager to start the project, with ditches already dug around Yang's land signaling imminent mass construction.

Yang was offered 130,000 yuan ($19,000) at most for the land requisitioned last year, said Ye Aimin, an official with the local Jinyinhu community.

But Yang demanded almost five times the amount, citing local government policies specifying compensation details with regard to the right of land use.

Yang showed a contract signed with a local farm in the 1980s to use the land, when all farms were State-owned. He renewed the contract in early 1990s, which extended his right of land use to 2029.