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Local residents sue government over evictions

A Chinese man protesting local government attempts to remove local rural residents from their land has died, and several more have been arrested after clashes with police in the southern province of Guangdong, local residents told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Sun Zhichai, of Xinxing County, was part of a delegation of farmers who went to local government offices in an attempt to negotiate with officials, after two villages in the county received eviction papers ordering them to give up land currently used for farming. Sun died on one of these visits as police swooped on protesters, arresting five people and claiming that his death was caused by a heart attack.

However, local residents told RFA�s Cantonese service that his death was the direct result of a police beating.

�The government said he was too excited, so had a heart attack," one man said in an interview. �But our peasants saw him struck down by a police stick and pushed down to a pond where he died instantly.�

A second farmer confirmed the dead man�s identity, naming two others placed under arrest following the incident, Sun Zhimin and Sun Guolin. He also said that the land dispute was the the reason behind Sun Zhichai�s death and the arrests.

No comment was immediately available from local authorities.

According to local sources, the county government served Ding and Daoji villages with eviction notices in August 2003, ordering them to surrender 1,600 mu (263 acres) of land for compulsory sale at well below market rates.

The farmers, who rely on this land for their livelihoods, began sitting outside government offices in nearby Xinxing township in the hope of talking to officials. Sun�s death and the arrests occurred during this time.

The wife of another protester, Lao Suchan, said her husband was arrested because the protesters refused to go along with the government�s demands, which they had attempted to back up with a set of 1994 regulations. She also said the farmers had filed a lawsuit against county authorities with the Yunfu District court, with the hearing scheduled for Nov. 5.

�We did not accept the price they gave us,� Lao�s wife said. �On the open market you need 1,000 yuan to buy one square foot of land. Now they want to give us 3,000 yuan for one mu (47,000 square feet).�

Mrs. Lao said the family would have no land and no livelihood left if they complied with the government�s request. �I have no job, and can�t find a job,� she said. �We asked the county officials to show us the legal document allowing them to take over our land, but they won�t even show us the right document. All my husband did was sit in front of the county building peacefully.�

She said Lao had been detained in the county prison for the past two months but that she had been refused permission to see him.

The requisition of land by local governments and state-owned enterprises has become one of the most controversial topics in both urban and rural areas in China, as new roads, factories, and housing and office developments have sprung up nationwide.

Local residents evicted from their homes often complain of poor government compensation and forceful removals, while many accuse the government of cashing in on the real estate market at their expense. Some residents' groups in urban areas have lodged class-action suits against local governments and developers.

Chinese attorneys and legal scholars have denounced the now-widespread aggressive demolition and relocation practices as government-sponsored thuggery, which China's weak judicial system is failing to check.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo and Kham) and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance and fairness in its editorial content. #####


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