Injured 'In Hospital' After Land Clash

The residents of a township in southern China protest to keep their farmland.

guanqiao-305 Guanqiao residents protest outside the township office, March 18, 2012.
Photo courtesy of a Guanqiao resident

Villagers in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong say dozens of their number have been injured by employees of a state-run farm in clashes over its appropriation of farmland.

Residents of Guanqiao township began protests last Wednesday over a plot of their farmland taken over by the Hongfeng Farm, sparking clashes with hired security guards at the weekend, according to a local resident surnamed Huang.

"The farm hired a whole bunch of people to fight for them, and they hurt a lot of people," Huang said in an interview on Monday.

He said villagers had begun by camping outside the township government offices in protest against the land grab, making food for themselves and waiting for a meeting with officials.

"On [March] 15 and 16 we asked the township government to sort it out, but nothing happened," Huang said.

An official who answered the phone at the Guanqiao township government confirmed some protesters had been injured.

"They are fine," the official said. "The people who were injured are in the hospital getting treatment."

Asked about two villagers who lost consciousness, he replied: "They're fine."

Police threat

Huang said later protests at the weekend were dispersed after a group of police in full military dress came over with pipes and steel bars to threaten the villagers.

"They all left after that. They didn't use force, because everyone was very frightened when they saw them," he said.

The villagers also took their protest to the government offices in nearby Huazhou city, which oversees Guanqiao, Huang said.

An official who answered the phone at the Hongfeng Farm offices denied any beating incident by its employees, however.

"I never heard about this," the employee said. "Everything is working normally here."

A second official who answered the phone at the Guanqiao township government said the protesters had gone home and that the streets were now calm.

"They just blocked the gate, that's all," she said. "Things are all quiet again now."

She described the dispute as "a problem left over from history."

"It has nothing to do with our government here," the official said. "It is Hongfeng Farm's problem, and we are now in the process of mediation."

Long lease

A second Guanqiao resident surnamed Su said that the disputed plot of farmland had already been leased for several decades by Hongfeng Farm from Shangcun and Tangyao villages, near Guanqiao.

He said the farm had stopped paying rent for the land in recent years, saying it should now be their possession, as they had rented it for so many years.

"The farm has been using the land for several decades now," Su said. "They say it belongs to them now, so obviously people have something to say about that."

He said the Guanqiao government had backed up the farm's claim.

"That's the way government and business work together nowadays," Su said. "The farm has a lot of money."

"Now we can see for ourselves how the authorities are hoodwinking the people," he said.

"The officials don't act on behalf of the people; the whole of China is a pit of darkness now, and farming communities can't even see the sky."

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 Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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