Girl, 3, killed by bulldozer in China land dispute

BEIJING (AFP) - A three-year-old girl was killed by a bulldozer during a land dispute in China, her father told AFP on Thursday, the latest case highlighting the human cost of the country's breakneck urbanisation.

Hong Xiaorou died under the tracks of the construction vehicle on land next to the family home in Zhangzhou, in the south-eastern province of Fujian, said her father Hong Bingsheng.

She was killed as the family tried to block construction crews from "forcibly flattening the land" on Wednesday, Mr Hong said, adding that the workers were planning to target their own property at a later stage.

"I asked an official from the demolition team: 'What is more important - human life or land acquisition?'" Mr Hong told AFP. "The official replied: 'Land acquisition is more important'."

The family took the girl's body to a local government office to protest to officials, the father said.

Images posted on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, showed a toddler lying on a table in what appeared to be an office, badly bruised with blood pouring from her head as a woman cried at her side.

The family has been negotiating compensation over the acquisition of their land, Mr Hong said. Such talks between residents and developers are common across China as the country undergoes rapid urbanisation.

"We live in the developing zone and they wanted to acquire our land. We haven't settled a compensation agreement, and they killed my daughter with a bulldozer," he said.

Local officials and police denied the family home was being targeted by developers.

"There's no demolition. Yes, the girl died. But she was accidently killed by the bulldozer when they were flattening the (adjacent) land as she sneaked into the building site and played there," said an official at the Zhangpu district office, declining to give her name.

A police officer surnamed Chen said: "The developer was flattening the land and the family of this girl were afraid their land was going to be affected because they are next door."

China's rapid urbanisation can see entire villages uprooted to make way for industry and housing developments - often with the help of corrupt officials and police.

A series of regulations have been passed by legislators in recent years to protect land rights, including outlawing the use of violence during evictions and stipulating market rate compensation must be paid to relocated residents.

British-based rights group Amnesty International has said violent forced evictions are increasing in China, with evictees sometimes beaten, imprisoned, or even killed at the hands of authorities.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.