HONG KONG—Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou have detained dozens of protesters on their way to a land protest outside government offices, local sources said.
"I think they must have detained between 30 and 40 people," said protester Yang Tonghua, a Miao ethnic minority farmer from Dongmen village near Guizhou's Kaili city. "A lot of people were hurt, and two are in the regional hospital."
"They caught us as we were leaving our homes [on the way to the protest], and surrounded us," Yang said of the detention on Oct. 18. "Some people are still being held."
"There must have been around 1,000 police at the very least," he said, adding that the government had sent regular police and city administration officials, or chengguan, to prevent the villagers from presenting a petition to the municipal authorities.
"They came into our housing area and beat us," Yang said, adding that police had refused to give medical treatment to those injured in the clashes.
Loss of farmland
Another Dongmen villager said he had been on a bus to the provincial capital of Guiyang to present a petition to the authorities over the loss of ethnic Miao farmland in a dispute that dated back to 1993, when police checked everyone's identification.
"The police asked us where we were from, and looked at our identification," said the villager. "They said that anyone from Dongmen village would be detained and not allowed to travel any further."
He confirmed reports that police had beaten a large number of villagers, two of whom had been sent to hospital.
Villager Shi Jiaping said she had been sent to hospital after being injured in the clashes and losing consciousness.
"As we were leaving the house, the police came," Shi said. "I was with a guy called Yang, and they detained him, along with more than a dozen others."
"There were a lot of police blocking the road, and I was trampled to the ground and lost consciousness."
Shi said she had sustained a fracture in her lower back. "I am in the hospital now," she said.
He Daihong, vice-mayor of Guiyang with responsibility for petitions and complaints, said he hadn't heard about the violence.
"According to our understanding here, this didn't happen," He said. "But I will have to look into what actually happened."
"If you come here, I will arrange an interview with someone from my office," he said.
Villagers claim that local officials illegally sold off their farmland after changing its ownership to state-owned property, without consulting local farming families.
"We are farmers, and that's what we do: we farm the land," said a third Dongmen villager. "They took our land and zoned it for residential use, and we got no compensation."
"Now we have no way of making a living and we are living from hand to mouth ... They broke their promises," he said.
More than 6,000 Dongmen villagers were affected by the land grab. Last January, thousands of them stormed local government offices, taking government officials hostage in an attempt to get their complaints heard.
China’s army of petitioners say they are repeatedly stonewalled, detained in “black jails,” beaten, and harassed by authorities if they try to take complaints against local government actions to higher levels of government.
Many petitioners who travel to Beijing to complain—often over loss of land or forced eviction from their homes—are escorted back home, where they can face beatings, surveillance, and further detention.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.