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Girl, 4, crushed by bulldozer fuels outrage against land grabs in China

By Tim Hume and Feng Ke, CNN
August 30, 2013 -- Updated 0912 GMT (1712 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Girl, 4, dies after being run over by a bulldozer in Fujian Province, China
  • Images of the girl's grieving family circulated on social media, fueling outrage
  • Many saw the incident as an consequence of land grabs by officials
  • Local officials said it was an accident and had nothing to do with the issue

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The death of a four-year-old girl run over by a bulldozer in rural China has triggered outrage on Chinese social media, rekindling anger over the issue of forced evictions.

The victim, named in reports as Hong Xiaorou, was struck by the bulldozer in Zhangpu County in the southern Chinese province of Fujian at about 11am local time Wednesday, a spokesperson for the county's publicity department told CNN. The girl subsequently died in hospital, and the driver was arrested.

The state-run China Daily reported that the girl's grandmother, Chen Saijiao, of Linqian village, had attempted to stop a bulldozer she spotted pushing mud on one of her fields. It reported that she could not be understood by the driver, who spoke a different dialect, and he accidentally backed over the girl who was playing behind his vehicle.

Pictures of the girl's mourning family sparked an angry reaction on Chinese social media, where it was perceived as a result of a land grab by local officials.

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"There are so many people killed or disabled because of land grabs in China, and (the officials) usually resolve these things with little compensation," wrote somebody using the handle @yongbao_ai on the popular micro-blogging service Sina Weibo.

"This is no big deal, all demolitions in (this area) are forced. It will be fine once people get used to it," another commenter using the handle @disanjihuasha remarked sarcastically.

Land seizures, driven by soaring prices and Beijing's push for urban expansion, has been a major source of popular discontent in China, often resulting in violent stand-offs between officials and the public. Farmers have little legal recourse when their land is earmarked for requisition, and compensation is typically slight.

Amnesty International identified land grabs and forced evictions as a major human rights issue facing China's leadership, saying the increasing volume of lawless forced evictions constitutes a breach of China's human rights obligations "on an enormous scale." But some officials have defended the process as a necessary evil of modernization.

Zhangpu County publicity department issued a statement Wednesday saying workers building a path near Chen's fields had mistakenly pushed mud onto one of her fields. The department spokesperson said the death was an accident that had "absolutely no relation" to the land grab issue.

County officials had met with the girl's parents and were in discussions with them about compensation, the spokesperson said.

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