Clashes Over Land, Mine Pollution in Southwest China

china-shangpu-clash-march-2013.jpg Children play around smashed and overturned cars in Shangpu village following a land clash, March 2, 2013.

Authorities in the southwestern region of Guangxi have detained at least 20 people following clashes between police and villagers protesting the loss of their farmland to development, residents said on Friday.

Security personnel entered Tuyintang village in Guangxi's Wuxuan county in the early hours of Thursday morning, a resident surnamed Zhang said.

"I heard they arrested 20-30 people," Zhang said. "They have pretty much taken all the land around here now."

Another villager, who is currently working in another city, posted on the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo that the county government had ordered several hundred armed police into the village.

"They climbed over walls and smashed down doors, and forced their way into villagers' homes and beat them," the post said. "A lot of villagers were injured, and they detained a large number of them."

The post said the authorities had also cut off the electricity supply and Internet access in a bid to prevent any news coverage of the raid.

RFA was able to contact the original poster, but he declined to comment further for fear of reprisals.

A third resident wrote via Weibo that a large group of local residents were now protesting angrily outside the county government offices.

An official who answered the phone at the Wuxuan County Communist Party Committee denied the reports, however.

"I don't really know, but it's not the way you imagine it to be," she said.

Decade-long dispute

A former resident of Tuyintang surnamed Chen said the dispute with local officials over land grabs in the area had been bitter and long-running, adding that the government had offered 70,000 yuan (U.S. $11,270) per mu (less than one-fifth acre) of land in compensation to local people.

"The villagers wouldn't agree to this, so the authorities took the land anyway," said Chen, whose brick factory was demolished by officials. "There was nothing anyone could do."

"This government is no good; we put tens of millions of yuan into [the brick factory], and they can just knock it down whenever they like."

He said the government had already grabbed several thousand mu of farmland from a community of 400 households in Tuyintang.

"The developer has already paid the government several hundred million yuan for it," Chen added.

Villagers have been protesting the land grabs for more than a decade.

Pollution clash

Meanwhile, authorities in the southwestern province of Yunnan have detained at least 20 people following clashes linked to pollution from a mining operation near a popular tourist town.

Police and local officials clashed on Wednesday with local residents protesting against pollution from copper and silver mining near Dali, which is an area of natural beauty and major tourist attraction.

An officer who answered the phone at Dali's Jiancao village police station, near the location of the mines, confirmed that police had been dispatched there.

"Yes," she said. "They've gone up to the mines." But she declined to give further details.

Online reports said the protests were focused around mines owned by Baiyang Village Enterprise Copper and Silver Ore.

An official who answered the phone at the Yunlong county government, which oversees the area, said he was unclear about the details.

"Things are basically under control now," he said. "I didn't go there myself, so I haven't got a handle on the situation."

He denied that any arrests had taken place.

"That's not likely," he said. "As a government, it is our job to give leadership to the masses, and we will do ideological work with people, not detain them."

An official who answered the phone in a separate interview said the mine had already stopped production. "Yes, yes," he said. "If there is a conflict, then we have to defuse it."

"The county leadership is taking this very seriously, and has set up a task force to to mediate this issue with local people, and they have all been to the area to do this," the official said.

However, online reports said the clashes broke out after the deputy county governor led a group of armed police in a raid to recapture territory occupied by the villagers in protest.

One villager had broken a bone during the clashes, during which villagers shouted "Bury the county chief alive!" The security forces later fled the scene, leaving more than 10 of their vehicles in local residents' hands.

Land violence

Analysts say that such violent conflicts over farmland are the result of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's program of relentless urbanization, and are unlikely to result in victory for rural communities.

Earlier this month, a land dispute flared into violent clashes during which police fired tear gas and beat protesters in Shangpu village, Guangdong, leaving dozens of people in hospital.

Five people were detained, while Shangpu village committee chief Li Baoyu is currently under "criminal detention" after being accused by villagers of brokering a deal to lease around 33 hectares (82 acres) of rice paddy to electronics company Wan Feng without giving most residents a chance to object.

While China has compensation rules for farmland based on the expected yield of a piece of land, villagers often complain that they never see the money, which is often appropriated by village committee members for their own ends.

In the current market, the value of a piece of land often far exceeds its value in terms of produce grown on it.

Reported by Wen Yuqing and Wei Ling 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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