Protests, Clashes in Guangdong

Chinese villagers protest land grabs, industrial pollution.
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Thousands of residents gathered in front of municipal offices in Shaxi, June 25, 2012.
Thousands of residents gathered in front of municipal offices in Shaxi, June 25, 2012.
Courtesy of Tencent

Thousands of people have surrounded government buildings in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in recent days over growing tensions between police and migrant workers, concerns over pollution, and an escalating land dispute.

Around 3,000 residents of Nanshe village near the port city of Shantou gathered outside the municipal Communist Party committee offices on Tuesday, after marching several miles to protest the loss of their farmland, protesters said.

Carrying banners which read: "Give the land back to the villagers," and beating gongs, the villagers went to petition city leaders for a corruption investigation, along with the return of more than 100 mu (16.5 acres) of farmland which was sold off privately and mortgaged by local officials.

"We have come here to protest against corrupt officials, who sold off our land in secret," said a protester surnamed Wang. "We went to demand an explanation from the village Party committee, but they ... have refused to give us money for it."

A second protester, also surnamed Wang, said villagers were also angry over pollution from a local paper factory.

"All the waterways near our village have become polluted since they built the paper factory," he said. "None of the villagers dare to drink it."

"Last year, we protested outside the township government, but with no result."

Repeated calls to the Shantou municipal Party committee, the Waisha township government, and the Nanshe village Party committee went unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

However, an official who answered the phone at the municipal government offices confirmed that large numbers of people were petitioning outside the Party committee buildings.

"We will definitely be sending someone to liaise over these issues you mention," the official said.

Tense standoff

Elsewhere in the province, migrant workers from southwestern Sichuan province gathered outside government offices in Zhongshan city in a tense standoff with local officials after a fight between migrant teenagers from Sichuan and their local counterparts sparked rioting, local residents said.

An employee who answered the phone at a retail outlet near government offices in Zhongshan's Shaxi township said it had been surrounded by several thousand workers since the early morning, and that several hundred riot police were still there, wearing shields and helmets.

"I saw some people overturning police vehicles just now," he said. "There are really a lot of people outside; my mother won't let me go out."

He said police had sealed off the area. "There are a lot of ambulances going back and forth the whole time," he said. "There are at least 100-200 riot police there."

Local residents said the unrest was apparently sparked by fights between young people.

"I heard that the kids' fight started a fight among the adults," said a second Zhongshan resident. "Everything has been locked down ... and they aren't letting people drive past."

"This happened on [Monday] night and they sealed off the roads in the early hours."

An officer who answered the phone at the Shaxi township police station, near where the clashes happened, said the police were at the scene.

"We are dealing with this right now," the officer said. "After we have sorted it out, we will make an announcement and answer your questions."

"The police are there [at the scene]."

Meanwhile, an angry crowd of villagers from the Zuohan village near Foshan city gathered outside the local Party committee, demanding an investigation into sales of their farmland.

Reported by Fung Yat-yiu and Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Fang Yuan for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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