Blast Blamed on Land Grabs

Chinese villagers accuse local authorities of 'lies' about a suicide bombing.

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An injured man at a hospital after a suicide explosion in a government office building in Qiaojia county, southwest China's Yunnan province, May 10, 2012.

Residents of the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan have blamed a suicide bomb attack which killed four people this week on forced evictions and a government takeover of farmland amid a lucrative property boom.

A 25-year-old man detonated a bomb at a government office in Baihetan township in Qiaojia county, using explosives tied to his body, local media reported.

Four people died of their injuries later, while 15 other people were also hurt.

Witnesses said the 25-year-old man, who killed himself in the explosion, was arguing with officials at a local government office over the compensation he was to be given.

He detonated the explosives when officials urged him to sign a compensation document, according to official media reports carried on the Sina Web portal.

"According to a villager from Baihetan township, the explosion occurred just as a local resident was discussing compensation payments from a land acquisition," the report said.

Local residents disputed the report's validity, however.

"This explosion was caused by land acquisition and forced eviction," said a resident of Yibo village, near Yunnan's Baihetan township, from which the bomber reportedly came. "Those officials at the Qiaojia county government have been telling lies."

"The guy wasn't from Baogunao village. He was from Yibo village," said the resident, who gave only his surname, Zheng. Reports had said that the man was from Baogunao, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Baihetan and where housing demolition was underway.

An official who answered the phone at the Qiaojia county government offices did not deny the incident had happened, but declined to comment.

"I don't know about this," the official said. "It's not convenient for me to speak ... there will be a result."

'Government lies'

A second Yibo villager surnamed Yang also said the government was lying.

"This incident had nothing to do with Baogunao village," he said. "This is all lies put out by the government."

"Most of the people [around here] have been forcibly evicted because of development work," he said.

Calls to the Baogunao village government went unanswered during office hours on Friday.

Yang said the local government had been speculating in plots of land in the village. "They get to dictate everything," he said. "Ordinary people have been oppressed out of existence by them."

"All we can do is bury our grievances; no one can risk sticking their neck out."

He said the trouble had started after a directive from the county government ordering that 1,600 mu (107 hectares) of farmland administered by Yibo village be returned to "state ownership" for development purposes.

"They paid 6,500 yuan (U.S.$1,030) per mu for bare land and 8,500 yuan per mu for land with trees planted on it," Yang said.

"After they had seized it, the lowest price they sold it for was 800,000 yuan (U.S.$127,000) per mu, and some of it fetched more than one million yuan per mu."

Legal loopholes?

He said local officials had made use of loopholes in documents from central government, by changing the land use designation to 'land for construction.'"

"Right now, we are asking the government, if you have taken all our land, how are ordinary people to make a living?"

Villagers' attempts to pursue grievances against local government have turned Yibo village into a "petitioner village" that is locally well-known, Yang said.

"We have been all the way to Beijing to petition, but Beijing sent it right back to the provincial government, and the provincial government sent it back to the municipal level, and they sent it to the county," he said.

"They just won't deal with it."

In China, all land is ultimately owned by the state, but is allocated to rural communities under collective contract and through the household responsibility system that replaced the state-run farms and communes of the Mao era.

Land acquisition for development, often resulting in lucrative property deals for local officials, sparks thousands of protests by local communities across China every month, many of which escalate into clashes with police.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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