If you don't know how to make a homemade cannon or master martial arts like Bruce Lee, if you don't have a foreigner as your spouse or have money to hire a professional guard, you might be out of luck if your home happens to stand in the way of a major development project in China.
Forced demolitions have been a contentious issue in China for years, but Zhang's ordeal – which made headlines nationwide this week – was a fresh reminder that, despite much rhetoric by Chinese leaders on strengthening rule of law, it remains difficult to get grassroots-level officials to act accordingly.
Zhang's house was designated as being in the way of major development projects as early as 2012. His neighbors agreed to compensation packages offered by the government. But he decided to hold out, leaving his home the last one standing in the area.
After being taken from their home, the couple were driven to a cemetery nearby. "If you don't follow our orders, this is where you'll end up," one of Zhang's captors threatened him and his wife, according to the Beijing News. After four hours, one of the captors received a call and the couple were dropped off about a mile from their home.
Relatives arrived with clothes and Zhang and his wife drove home. They arrived to find a pile of rubble. All of their belongings -- including his identification documents, bank cards, cellphones and cash -- were buried under the debris. Smoke was rising from the pile, apparently emanating from some fireworks stored in a shop that rented out the first floor of Zhang's building.
When Zhang's story hit the Chinese press this week, he received an outpouring of support.
Exactly who tore down Zhang's home remains unclear.
"Zhang Hongwei built a four-floor house in 2008 without receiving proper approval from the government. Out of the hundreds of residents who had to relocate for the expansion of the highway G107 in 2012, he was the only one who refused to move," the statement said.
It added that the house was also in the way of a subway project, delaying work for over 20 days and causing "serious damage to the construction company and the growth of the city's subway system." To ensure the construction of the project moved ahead, the project's management team handed the responsibility for demolishing Zhang's home to the local village committee.
Many people facing eviction say the compensation offered by authorities is insufficient, and have resorted to extreme measures in an effort to obtain bigger payouts.
Tommy Yang in The Times' Beijing bureau and staff writer Julie Makinen contributed to this report.