Fujian City Warned Over Unrest

Chinese officials are warned to take measures to prevent mass protests as the economy worsens.

2009-02-12
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090212-dx-305.jpg A leaked communique from the Fuzhou municipal propaganda department calls for measures to avoid unrest.
Photo: RFA

HONG KONGAuthorities in the southeastern Chinese city of Fuzhou have warned local officials to take measures to prevent "mass incidents" over a land dispute, as the global economic crisis sparks government fears over growing social unrest.

In a document issued by the Chinese Communist Party propaganda department of Fuzhou city and obtained by RFA, the government warned officials in Fuqing city, lower down the chain of command, to beware of fallout.

"We recommend that the relevant departments take this very seriously and take immediate steps to ensure that no mass incidents take place," the document, titled "Special Report on Web Opinion" and signed by the "Web news management division," said.

Dated Jan. 21 and seen Thursday, the communique was sparked by a Jan. 20 report by RFA's Mandarin service, which covered a dispute between villagers around Haikou township, near Fuqing, and local officials, over compensation for farmland lost to development.

The communique said China's state security police were unable to block the RFA Web site "for technical reasons."

"As the hostile Web site server is located overseas, we cannot deal with it technically, but our state security department can block this kind of Web site so that netizens in China cannot access the Web site under normal circumstances," the document said.

As the hostile Web site server is located overseas, we cannot deal with it technically, but our state security department can block this kind of Web site so that netizens in China cannot access the Web site under normal circumstances."

"We have already informed the Propaganda Department of Fuqing City of this matter," it added.

China, which already sees thousands of "mass incidents" a week, is bracing for further social unrest as the global economic crisis begins to bite and waves of laid-off migrant workers head home from China's once-booming coastal cities.

The head of China's judiciary has called on courts to maintain social stability amid the global economic slowdown, saying the number of labor disputes had jumped by 94 percent in the first 10 months of 2008, compared with the same period a year earlier.

The "Regulation on Petitions" issued recently by China's State Council states that petitioners may voice their grievances to higher-level government offices.

Many petitioners have spent years pursuing complaints against local officials over disputes including the loss of homes and farmland, unpaid wages and pensions, or alleged mistreatment by the authorities.

Farmers in Fuqing said in January that they have been petitioning for several years over farmland acquired for development as far back as 1995 for industrial development.

A local villager surnamed Chen said the dispute over compensation for their farmland remained unresolved.

"They don't care about this," he said Thursday. "Communist Party officials have no sense of shame."

Rural activist Zhang Jianping said state-run Chinese media would avoid reporting such disputes in Haikou township.

"We want the authorities to be very clear that the channels that enable our voices to be heard should not be labeled as hostile media," he said.

He commented on the propaganda communique: "Now you see the state security police have become the accomplices of those who bully the farmers."

Haikou township Party secretary Zhuang Weishun said RFA's report would have little effect on the situation.

"Nothing has changed," he said.

"The central government has sent different investigative teams and they did not find any problems. It is just a number of diehard petitioners making wrongful accusations."

Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. Translated by Jia Yuan. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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