Vietnamese authorities have cordoned off a Hanoi neighbourhood and demolished a row of buildings housing 1,000 people, a day after residents protested against their eviction.
Earth-moving equipment tore down the shops and houses as residents scrambled to salvage what goods and furniture they could under the watchful eye of uniformed and plain-clothes security forces.
Hanoi authorities, who said the 130 households were squatting without legal title to the properties, moved in the previous evening and told locals to save what they could.
Land disputes have become a frequent source of tension in Vietnam, as city dwellers and farmers have had to make way for new infrastructure and industrial buildings in the densely populated and economically booming nation.
“About 130 families with 1,000 people are being moved this morning and it is terrible,” said Nguyen Mai Son, a 43-year-old soup vendor from the southwest Hanoi neighbourhood. “Most of us don’t know how and where to live now.”
Security forces moved into the street on Thursday afternoon and told residents to clear out and dismantle the one-storey structures, said Tran Ngoc Khanh, a 25-year-old flower vendor and mother of two.
By dawn Friday the properties, which were combined shops and houses, had been emptied, doors and fittings ripped out and many walls demolished.
Dazed and crying residents looked at the shells of their former businesses and homes in the rubble-strewn street.
Scores of security forces closed off the Thanh Xuan district neighbourhood, and a crane demolished the empty buildings with hours. Police with megaphones and video cameras were posted to keep away outsiders.
“Police and security officials have started to destroy our houses with cranes and other equipment,” said a weeping shop-owner, Nguyen Thi Thu, 38.
“We are very angry with them, but we cannot do anything.
“There is no democracy for us. We cannot oppose the state. What we can do now is stay and cry in the streets and worry about tomorrow.”
Residents said six of 10 people detained Thursday for protesting the mass eviction outside the Hanoi People’s Committee building remained in custody Friday, although police refused to confirm the detentions.
Police also refused to comment on the evictions.