Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bamboo bazooka

The Guardian, 9 July 2010

Chinese 'rocket man' wins record payout over farmland dispute

Yang Youde wins compensation battle which saw him fight off property
developers using homemade pyrotechnics

By Jonathan Watts in Beijing

A Chinese farmer who used homemade rockets to fight off developers was
celebrated in the state media today for winning record levels of
compensation for his land.

Yang Youde has become a cult figure in recent months for his one-man
pyrotechnic resistance campaign, which saw him build a rickety watchtower
above his home, from which he fired a bamboo bazooka at builders approaching
his land.

He is the latest in a series of high-profile "nail households" that refuse
to accept low compensation or intimidation by property developers and
government officials.

According to the China Daily, Yang has also become the most successful
hold-out, by winning a compensation deal worth more than 750,000 yuan
(£75,000) for 1.75 hectares (4.32 acres) of land, a fishpond and
single-storey brick farmhouse on the outskirts of Wuhan, Hubei province.

Although he claims to have fired only warning shots at developers, his
actions appear to have secured a far higher settlement than that offered to
his neighbours. According to the paper, Yang was so pleased that he
personally demolished his eight-metre-high watchtower and made preparations
to relocate.

Yang signed the deal a week after his elder brother was attacked and injured
in an escalation of the confrontation. But the unfavourable media attention
this directed at the authorities appears to have worked in his favour.
"Their attitudes were totally different and full of sincerity this time. It
made me hopeful of being able to iron out our differences," he said.

While property owners are increasingly assertive in protecting their rights,
there are still many cases where they lose out.

In March, a 92-year-old man and his 68-year-old son in Lianyungang, Jiangsu
province, set themselves on fire in protest against the demolition of their
family's pig farm, and the son died of his injuries. However, the sty was
torn down.