Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Protest breaks out as land grabs persist

Protest breaks out as land grabs persist
Local officials continue to take land from farmers to sell it to industrialists at below market price. People have taken to the streets in protest, not least because they are given just minimal compensation. A policeman has killed three people in Dalian.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – There is no let-up in theft of land perpetrated by public authorities and industries to the detriment of farmers. In wealthy Guandong, the anger of the people has exploded on the streets; they are without safeguards despite recent land reforms and repeated assurances from the highest powers of the state. In Dalian, a policeman shot dead three people who asked him for compensation.

In Gurao city in the municipality of Shantou, Guangdong, residents ransacked the offices and homes of local leaders, taking to the streets over illegal land grabbing. The production of underwear flourishes in this area. Residents were protesting because local officials were grabbing and selling their land at below market price to overseas investors to promote this industry, denying them [the residents] fair compensation. Now the authorities have set up a “work group” to mediate with the people. But the village residents have become mistrustful and want to appeal immediately to higher authorities.

Zhang Yifa, secretary of the Communist Party of Xinxing village, told the South China Morning Post that his fellow villagers had invaded his home several times and threatened him as well as other officials. He complained that the police failed to intervene although he called them more than once.

In Dalian, according to local sources, a railway police official shot and killed three members of the same family on 26 April when they went to his home to discuss an issue of compensation. One source said there was an attempt to stop the news from leaking out.

According to official statistics, more than 50% of social protests are the result of land grabs and failure to pay adequate compensation. In 2005, there were reports of more than 87,000 “mass protests”. The number dropped by 16.5% in 2006 but the incidents were much more violent. The Land and Resources Ministry admitted that in 2006 unwarranted land seizures increased by 17.3% to reach 131,000 cases involving around 100,000 hectares of land, a volume that exceeds that of 2005 by 76%. At least 43,000 hectares of land grabbed was farming land.

According to the state agency Xinhua, “the enormous number of social protests across the country has become the most serious problem affecting social stability.” Every day, China registers between 120 and 230 manifestations, mostly in rural areas.

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