Riot Over Land Dispute

Villagers in south China riot over a land grab and clash with police.

2011.11.13
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Rioters damage a police van in protests in Lufeng city in south China's Guangdong province, Sept. 22, 2011.
Eyepress News

Chinese authorities called in 3,000 riot police at the weekend to quell a mass protest by villagers who attacked an industrial park in southern Guangdong province over a longstanding land dispute, according to police and news reports.

The attack by several thousand villagers, armed with petrol bombs, clubs,and stones, was sparked by reports that an official had illegally sold their rice paddy land for conversion to an industrial zone in Zhongshan city without compensating them.

Zhongshan police said in a statement that residents of Yilong Village "attacked" the park on Saturday by "smashing, looting, and setting fire to" the facility.

The Oriental Daily, a Hong Kong newspaper, reported that 3,000 riot police were dispatched to quell the riot. Some blog posts said an equal number of villagers were involved in the protest.

The newspaper also said that villagers threw petrol bombs, and that some buildings were in flames.

Yilong residents accused the former secretary of their village of selling their land on his own and withholding the compensation from them, it said.

Burning factories

Photographs uploaded on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblog, and other websites showed unconfirmed images of burning factories emitting plumes of black smoke, columns of black-clad riot police trooping through the village, and crowds of residents engaging in standoffs with the police and a nighttime sit-down protest, according to the South China Morning Post.

Blog posts also showed protest banners complaining about "weak and inept" officials, and claimed the protest came after government officials sold off village land for their own personal gain, the Hong Kong newspaper said.

The dispute had been simmering since August, leading to factories in the industrial zone halting production, Zhongshan police said, dismissing reports that some villagers had died in the riot.

Caixin Magazine, an online journal, reported that the Yilong residents had been standing watch in a basketball court near the industrial park for months, blocking factory workers from going to work.

RFA's calls to the Zhongshan Municipal Public Security Bureau and the Dongsheng and Xiaolan branches went unanswered Sunday.

Increasing unrest

Yang Lili of the D.C.-based China Information Center said that land disputes have caused increasing unrest in China in recent years.

"Although the land was sold, the peasants did not receive appropriate compensation," she said. "Local officials and village officials often take the bulk of the land sales to line their own pockets."

"The peasants not only lose their land that they rely on for survival, but they also don't receive the appropriate compensation, so it's from this that social conflicts have become more serious in recent years."

In September, thousands of villagers in Lufeng, another part of Guangdong province, rioted by ransacking government offices and overturning police vehicles in protest against land requisitions by officials.

Reported by Lin Ping for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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