What would you do to protect your home and family? Would you, for example, construct your own rocket launcher?
Such is the story of Yang Youde, a 56 year-old farmer in Hubei who has declared war on the property developers trying to take his land.
Since February, Yang has fended off two eviction attempts with his improvised weapon – a cannon made out of a wheelbarrow and pipes, which fires ammunition made from locally sold fireworks. He surveys the likely scene of battle from an eight-metre wooden watchtower he has built himself too.
“I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to give up my lawful rights,” Yang told Beijing News. “They make me do this. We are civilians who observe the laws. Illegal things are too much, but my cannons are only fireworks, I think they won’t kill.”
The most recent effort to evict Yang in late May failed when he climbed his watchtower to launch rockets at more than 100 raiders. Local police then arrived and Yang was warned that the use of explosive material was illegal.
Though Yang’s approach is more extreme than most, his problem is a common one.
Forced evictions have been a source of enduring social anger, fostering Yang’s current celebrity. In December, a woman in Chengdu set herself alight when authorities arrived to demolish her home. The problem also led many Chinese to see deeper meaning in Avatar, as a morality tale pitting innocent homeowners against voracious developers (WiC45).
Yang was told by the local authorities early this year that he would have to make way for a residential development. He was promised compensation but he thinks his land – on which he keeps cattle and grows cotton and fruit – is worth about five times the amount on offer.
When negotiations broke down, the developer hired demolition teams to get on with the job of removing him. Yang accuses them of beating him up during their first encounter in February.
Now, he is readier to defend himself, with the homemade cannon and petrol bombs. The local media reports that Yang sits out on a deck chair up in his watchtower, guarding his plot around the clock.
Critics say that Yang’s battle is a hopeless one, and developers have filed motions to allow them to demolish his dwelling. No doubt embarrassed by the press attention, the local authorities are also eager to see the back of Yang, and have threatened to arrest him for “public safety violations”.
Netizens around the world, on the other hand, have picked up on his story, and are far more respectful. One has even named him as their ‘bad ass of the week’.
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