Police in China's Guangxi Clash With Residents in Demolition Standoff

china-liang-villagers-april-2017-crop.jpg Liang villagers continue their protest against a government compensation plan to relocate them, April 28, 2017.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

Dozens of people were injured after thousands of residents of China's southwestern region of Guangxi clashed with police and demolition gangs trying to tear down their homes to make way for a horticultural exhibition ground, eyewitnesses told RFA on Friday.

Riot police fired pepper spray, and used police dogs and batons to disperse thousands of protesters who gathered in the regional capital Nanning in anger over plans to forcibly demolish their homes.

A local rights activist surnamed Tan said dozens of people were injured during the clashes, which took place on Thursday afternoon between police and residents of Liang village in the city's Yongning district.

"When we went back to the scene today, the police were already gone," Tan told RFA on Friday. "The clashes yesterday lasted from about 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m."

"The residents told me that the police were using pepper spray, police dogs and batons to attack protesters, and that several dozen people sustained injuries, none of them critical."

"But one person got taken to hospital and had to have 10 stitches," Tan said. "There has been no response from the government so far."

Local sources said the government had tried sending in demolition teams to raze village homes in Yongning on Thursday, running into determined opposition when they got to Liang village.

The government sent in an estimated 1,000 riot police and other security personnel to deal with the protests, which brought around 6,000 protesters out onto the street, they said.

Video and photos of the clashes seen by RFA showed large numbers of protesters holding up banners protesting the demolitions, facing off with ranks of uniformed police.

Villagers were also shown trying to hold off the police with rocks and flagpoles, while women and children were among those beaten.

Liang village is now encircled by police checkpoints, and no vehicles are allowed to move through freely, local residents said.

"You can't get into our district now, and we can't get through to them by phone either," a resident of Liang village surnamed Liang, who is currently out of town, told RFA. "It's all being covered up."

"The cover-up started in the middle of last night; we couldn't get through to them by phone, and so I have no idea how many people got hurt," Liang said.

"It's all been sealed off. Nobody can get in, and it's pretty hard to get out."

Inadequate compensation

Villagers said they were infuriated by a government offer of several hundred yuan (100 yuan = U.S. $14.50) per square meter (1 square meter = 11 square feet) in compensation for their existing homes, saying it will cost them more than 10,000 yuan (U.S. $1,450) per square meter to buy new homes.

They have also accused local officials of embezzling funds earmarked to pay more reasonable rates of compensation.

An official who answered the phone at the Yongning district branch of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's disciplinary arm declined to comment.

"Anti-eviction clashes, you say? I don't really know about this," the official said. "None of our leaders is here right now."

The clashes come amid growing public anger over the use of violent forced evictions, often with no warning or due process, by local governments to reclaim land for lucrative redevelopment or speculation.

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

But the authorities are quick to suppress news and social reports of such clashes, and anyone who posts details of such "mass incidents" risks detention for spreading rumors.

Last November, authorities in the northern city of Shijiazhuang executed Jia Jinglong, who fatally shot a local official with a nail gun in protest over the forced demolition of his home, in spite of a massive public campaign for a reprieve.

In a case that became emblematic of widespread anger over social injustice in China, the Supreme People's Court ruled that Jia's crime was "extremely serious," and merited the death penalty.

Reported by Wong Siu-san and Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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