A bus driver deliberately drove his vehicle off the road into a reservoir in southern China last week, killing 21 people on board in an act of revenge against society over the government demolition of his former home, police said on Sunday.
Public security authorities in Anshun, Guizhou province, said the 52-year-old driver, identified only by his surname Zhang, went to the residence on Tuesday morning.
Zhang had permanent lease rights to the home which was owned by a local authority but the structure was earmarked for demolition as part of a “shanty town redevelopment plan”.
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He called a government hotline, complaining that his residence should not be destroyed before he was granted a new one, the police said, adding that the home was demolished that morning.
Zhang then bought some alcohol at around 9.04am, decanted it into a drink bottle and went to work at the bus company, according to the police statement.
He called his girlfriend and expressed “cynicism and pessimism”, at 11.39am before getting behind the wheel of the bus at 11.47am.
He started driving the vehicle and at about 12.09pm drank the alcohol at a stop while passengers were getting on and off the bus. Three minutes later, he made a wide turn left, crossing five lanes, driving the bus off the road into the local reservoir.
In all, 21 people, including Zhang, were killed and 15 others injured in the incident.
At least 12 students, who had just finished the morning session of the national college entrance examination, were on board, five of whom died.
Footage of the bus plunge was aired on state television, igniting debate about whether it was an accident or a deliberate act.
On Friday, Chinese magazine Caixin reported that Zhang’s old residence was destroyed on the morning of the crash and Zhang had been prevented from stopping the demolition.
The report suggested that the bus plunge was deliberate and in response to Zhang’s treatment by the authorities.
The report was widely viewed online, touching a public nerve about the impact of state-led development before it was taken offline.
The police statement on Sunday confirmed the Caixin report and offered further details.
According to the statement, Zhang had signed an agreement with local government on June 8 for one-off compensation of 72,542.94 yuan (US$10,400) for the demolition of his 40 square metre home. But Zhang never claimed the money.
Zhang had applied for government housing rented out at below-market rates but his application was rejected.
The police concluded that Zhang had “committed an extreme public security crime targeting an unspecific group of people” with the intention of “making an impact” out of his unhappiness with life and dissatisfaction with the destruction of his old home.
Commenters online were divided over the incident.
“It’s true that no one would agree to swap a 40 square metre flat for just 70,000 yuan. But the bus driver picked the wrong target for revenge. His act was total cowardness and hurt innocents,” one user commented on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.
A commenter on social media platform WeChat said the incident was a total tragedy, adding: “The weak have no way to resist the powerful, and in turn the weak turn on those who are weaker.”
The Anshun government said in a separate statement on Sunday that it would further investigate the demolition and punish any wrongdoings during the process.
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This article Fatal China bus crash a deliberate act of revenge by driver, police say first appeared on South China Morning Post