Chinese Farmer Dies After Being Bulldozed by Government Worker While Protesting Forced Land Seizure

Aug 25, 2016 12:36 PM EDT

A farmer protesting the forced acquisition of his land in China's southwestern Shandong province was killed by a government worker, who used a front loader to maul him to death.

According to China Aid, an international non-profit Christian human rights organization committed to promoting religious freedom and rule of law in China, the Communist government forcibly seized the farmer's property and dispatched a team to build a road across it. Attempting to prevent the construction, the landowner stood before a front loader, which plowed over him and killed him.

While the state claims the death was caused by a faulty operation of machine, China Aid notes that internet users allege that it was intentional. However,  social media posts related to the incident have been deleted, leaving little information on the event.

"Is the government any different than bandits?" one post read.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources, between 1998 and 2005 there were more 1 million cases of illegal seizures involving at least 815,447 acres. Additionally, a survey in 90 areas in 2008 by the official New China News Agency found that 22 percent to 80 percent of land projects were illegal.

Many cases involve violence and harassment, and evictees often received little notice, no consultation and only a fraction of the value of their home in compensation. 

"The forced eviction of people from their homes and farmland without appropriate legal protection and safeguards has become a routine occurrence in China, and represents a gross violation of human rights obligations on an enormous scale," Amnesty told the BBC.

Many cases are "sudden and violent, sometimes resulting in death", harassment and people being buried alive. 

The horrific incident mirrors one in the central Henan province city of Zhumadian, where Ding Cuimei, wife of the Rev. Li Jiangong, was killed by a bulldozer while trying to stop the government-ordered demolition of Beitou Church. According to China Aid, Ding was pushed into a ditch and buried alive as horrified congregants watched helplessly.

"Bury them alive for me," a member of the demolition team said. "I will be responsible for their lives."

At the time, Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid, said the horrific incident underscores the serious violations against religious freedom in China that have occurred since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013 and highlights the Chinese leadership's discomfort with the growing allure of Christianity, whose followers are said to rival in number the 86 million members of the Communist Party.