81-year-old Chinese sets self on fire in protest

AP News
Posted: Nov 16, 2011 1:14 AM
81-year-old Chinese sets self on fire in protest

An 81-year-old woman died after setting herself on fire in her bedroom as a demolition team led by local officials were trying to knock down her home, Chinese media reported Wednesday.

It is one of several recent self-immolation cases related to property seizures in China. Some of the most passionate protests in the authoritarian country have been against local officials who have taken people's houses, often with little or no compensation, to make way for development.

Financial magazine Caijing said Wang Liushi died after self-immolating on Nov. 3 in her family's house in central Henan province.

It said the Erqi district party committee propaganda department said her home had been illegally constructed and issued a demolition order. Caijing quoted an unnamed lawyer for the family as saying the house was built more than 10 years ago and the government only said recently it was illegal.

The Southern Metropolis newspaper quoted Wang's son, Wang Haorong, as saying officials from Zhengzhou city council and the Erqi Law Enforcement Bureau and a demolition team of about 300 came to the family's house.

The paper said Wang's son and daughter-in-law climbed onto the roof and poured gasoline over themselves in a bid to stop the demolition team. The daughter-in-law said she heard a loud noise and saw heavy smoke coming out of Wang's room.

An official at the propaganda department of the Communist Party's branch in Zhengzhou confirmed one death but said it was a "fire accident."

The official, who would give only his surname Jia as is common in China, said the family told police they were storing gasoline because they had a generator. He said 16 firefighters rushed to the scene, extinguished the fire and found Wang's body.

Caijing and Southern Metropolis said the victim's son and daughter-in-law were detained for 10 days for disturbing public order. Southern Metropolis said six family members were initially detained after Wang's death, including her granddaughter and 2-year-old great-grandson, who were released the same day.

Although not related, the incident comes on the heels of 11 self-immolations in China in recent months involving monks, former monks and nuns protesting Chinese rule in Tibet.