Chinese Farmer Burns to Death in Dispute Over 'Nail House' With Property Developers
Chinese call them dingzihu or "nail houses."
Their owners are holding out for better compensation or are unwilling to let a home filled with memories be flattened -- like a nail that refuses to be hammered down.
In desperation, frustrated road and property developers sometimes build around them -- the most striking examples make for a wry photo essay.
But Zhang Jimin's stand against the bulldozers ended in his death.
The 46-year-old farmer and father of two in Donggu village, northern Shandong province, refused to leave his home when dozens of men arrived at his doorstep to demolish his home on September 14.
What happened next is in dispute. His family say he was burnt alive by "thugs" hired by the local government. Local authorities say he set his home on fire.
Images of his charred, curled body were shared widely on Chinese social media. The family say they believe that the demolition crew brought gasoline-filled bottles, put an iron bar across his front door and set his home alight.
"You can see that his clothes are still relatively complete. If my uncle really poured gasoline over himself and set himself on fire, wouldn't all the clothes be burned off?" his nephew told CNN. He didn't want to give his name because he says officials told him not to speak to the media.
On September 16, the Pingyi county government said in a statement posted on an official social media account that a preliminary investigation had ruled out arson and said that Zhang had bought nine liters of gasoline on September 11 and 13 and he caused the fire himself.
In a more detailed statement four days later, on the same social media account, the county government said that the incident was triggered by "forced demolition" but "the fire was not set by others but ignited by his own behavior," with Zhang's DNA found on fragments of two glass bottles that were filled with gasoline.
The county government and local police didn't respond to repeated CNN calls for comment. FollowMe On Twitter &Instagram: @effiongeton