Two lawyers representing 29 families in a land requisition case in central China were hospitalized after being attacked by around 20 men in broad daylight following a court hearing on Wednesday, financial news outlet Caixin reported, highlighting the contentious situations that can arise when local governments repurpose residential property. Local police told Sixth Tone that they are investigating the case.
Laywers Gu Dongqing and Wang Zhiwei realized they were being followed as they left the intermediate people’s court in Jingmen, Hubei province, and walked to their hotel — a distance of around 50 meters. Gu told Sixth Tone that they had just finished suing the Dongbao District government on behalf of their clients. While later standing in front of the hotel with their luggage, the pair were attacked by a mob of men. Gu was shoved into a vehicle and asked whether he’d like to be being buried alive, while Wang was thrown to the ground and beaten. Though a handful of the thugs reportedly stomped on Wang’s head, he told Caixin he had recovered and was in stable condition.
“They didn’t say anything; they just kept beating us, so I ran to the lobby [of the hotel],” Gu said in an interview with Kanfa News, an online media outlet specializing in legal matters. “The plaintiffs had already warned us that they were being threatened by local thugs and suggested we leave [Jingmen] immediately after recovering our luggage.”
According to Kanfa News, the hotel’s surveillance footage recorded the entire incident. When local police arrived on the scene after witnesses called emergency services, they found shovels and bedsheets in the abandoned vehicle. By Friday, seven suspects had been arrested.
When Sixth Tone called the Jingmen police on Monday for an update on the case, an officer who answered the phone suggested we try the station’s publicity department, for which he could not provide a phone number.
“We are deeply shocked by this kidnapping incident and strongly condemn these violent acts against the lawyers,” Gu and Wang’s Beijing law firm, which specializes in demolition cases, posted on its website Wednesday. “We hope that the police and the relevant administrative bodies in Jingmen, Hubei province, will deal with this matter promptly and impartially, in accordance with the law, and track down and punish the assailants behind these attacks.”
Evictions are one of the most contentious legal issues in China because of their tendency to result in physical, even deadly, confrontations. In March 2016, an attorney representing 20 individuals who had had their homes demolished in Xiangyang, another city in Hubei province, was beaten by a gang of men outside an intermediate court. Police detained 17 people in the aftermath of the assault, though many were released the next day. And in June of this year, Liu Yongjin, a Beijing-based lawyer who specializes in land requisition cases, was attacked and had his leg broken just outside a courthouse in eastern China’s Jiangsu province.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: A suspect is handcuffed by police in Huizhou, Guangdong province, Dec. 10, 2014. Chen Weibin/VCG)