Dozens Hurt in Guangdong Land Dispute Clashes: Villagers


2006-10-18
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September 2005. Villagers in a tense standoff with police in Guangdong's Taishi village, where a similar dispute flared. Photo: AFP

HONG KONG—Two people are critically ill and dozens of others are injured following clashes between villagers and police in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, local residents said.

That evening, the police beat up anyone staging a protest, whether they were male or female, young or old.

Around 900 residents of Xingtan township arrived in the provincial capital of Guangdong at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday by the busload to stage a protest outside the offices of the provincial government.

They planned to spend the night in adjacent streets and stage a sit-in at provincial government headquarters Monday in protest against alleged corruption surrounding the sale of their land by local officials.

The same evening, the authorities mobilized around 2,000 police officers and riot police with orders to force the villagers back onto their buses and back to their hometown.

“That evening, the police beat up anyone staging a protest, whether they were male or female, young or old,” a villager surnamed Leung told RFA's Cantonese service Tuesday.

Between 10 and 20 villagers were injured that night, including one villager who had a broken foot, and another who had something stuck in both eyes and was probably blinded, he said.

Two taken to hospital

At least two people had very serious injuries and had already been transferred from Shunde Municipal Hospital to an intensive care unit in the Guangdong Provincial Hospital, Leung added.

“So far at least 10 people have been detained including my older brother and two village-level representatives of the local People's Congress,” according to another villager, surnamed Luo.

Angry villagers had continued the protest in their hometown, gathering outside local government offices and even attacking passing vehicles.

“Some people have gone home to get some rest, but they'll be back when they've built up their strength again,” Luo said. “They are planning to continue their sit-in outside the township government on Wednesday until the authorities release the people they've detained.”

Other residents said some villagers had boarded a train direct from Guangzhou to Beijing and presented a petition to authorities in the capital Tuesday. But officials in the capital were apathetic and were unlikely to do anything to help, they said.

Some villagers were planning a signature campaign in the township in the days to come and would explore other avenues to make their views heard, they added.

Continuing campaign

An officer who answered the phone at the Xingtan township police station declined to comment when contacted by RFA. “I don't know about this,” he said. “We don't know anything about it.”

The clashes coincided with a visit to the Guangzhou Trade Fair by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao at the weekend. Last month, Wen warned Communist Party rank and file that “illegal” seizures of land in rural areas could lead to instability.

“It is sparking mass incidents in the countryside,” Wen was quoted as saying in an official Xinhua news agency story dated Sept. 1. “We absolutely cannot commit a historic error over land problems.”

Clashes between farming communities and police are becoming more and more widespread as local residents are increasingly challenging lucrative property deals involving communal land by local officials.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Fung Yat-yiu. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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