Farmers Clash Over Highway Plans

Residents of a strategically located village find themselves at odds with troops sent to pressure them into a land deal.
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A farmer in China's southern Guangdong province picks vegetables on land requisitioned for industrial use, Jan. 18, 2006.
A farmer in China's southern Guangdong province picks vegetables on land requisitioned for industrial use, Jan. 18, 2006.

HONG KONG—Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have mobilized security forces to put pressure on local residents to sell land needed for a key highway project, residents said.

People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers were going from door to door in Rongli village near Foshan city asking villagers to sign an agreement to sell their land to the authorities, Rongli residents said.

A woman surnamed Chen said around 300 soldiers appeared Tuesday after villagers refused to sell because of inadequate compensation.

They used the military to deal with us."

Zhou, villager

"They drove into the village in six buses and they were working together with the local land management bureau and the neighborhood committees," Chen said.

"They were trying to get people to sign an agreement to sell their land, or take responsibility for the outcome. The soldiers were really mean. Some of the older people were so scared they wet themselves," she added.

A villager surnamed Zhou said the soldiers stayed until around 9 p.m.

No license plates

"The Rongli village residence committee and police station want us to give up our land, but we villagers disagree with the price offered," he said.

"The [promised] compensation didn’t reach us at all. So they used the military to deal with us."

"In daytime, there were about 50 or 60 police and soldiers, but in the evening the number was around 200 to 300."

"They were saying ‘We are from the People’s Liberation Army, and the country needs your land. You must sign the contract to show you agree with the deal.’ They forced us to sign,” he said.

None of the military vehicles involved displayed license plates, villagers said. The only exception was a minivan with its license plate covered by cloth.

"We villagers blocked the way of the minivan and requested to see the license plate. Then the soldiers scuffled with us, using rubber truncheons to hit us," Zhou said.

Angry villagers then called the Guangzhou Military District of the PLA, complaining about the bad behavior of the soldiers. The were told to approach military authorities at a lower level, they said.

Local cadres declined to help in the dispute, villagers said.

"More than 2,000 villagers went to the village residence committee to protest on Monday night," a Rongli resident surnamed Li said.

"But the staff there were indifferent to our questions. They just insisted that we have to sign the agreement," she said.

Repeated calls to the cell phones of Rongli cadres went unanswered Tuesday.

Rongli village lies on the path of the planned Panyu to Shunde expressway, part of a network of highways being built across the Pearl River Delta economic area, connecting the port with the inland manufacturing center of Shunde.

Local authorities want to requisition a plot of 8,000 mu (1,317 acres) from Rongli village, but residents say they have yet to see any compensation.

Guangdong officials have pledged that all major cities will lie within an hour's drive of each other by 2020.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Yan Xiu. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and Chen Ping. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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