HONG KONG—Protests are flaring over the sale of land for power station projects in Dongzhou village, in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, with a demonstration following weekend clashes.
As many as 2,000 Dongzhou villagers fought back after being set upon by government-hired thugs Sunday, burning vehicles amid another wave of protests against a coal-fired power station on land they used to farm, according to witnesses.
“Today villagers from all five different areas came out to demonstrate,” a local resident told RFA’s Mandarin service Monday.
“There were a lot of people. Quite a bit more than on Dec. 6, 2005; maybe more than 1,000 took part in the protest itself,” he said.
“There were also a lot of bystanders. The protesters were calling on the Party in Beijing to sort out this problem. They had banners and were beating gongs. They marched down to the gates of the power station,” the villager told reporter Ding Xiao.
But they found the power station management unwilling to talk to them, and were met instead by large numbers of riot police. Realizing the situation, the villagers hung their banners at the gate and dispersed peacefully around lunchtime.
Another villager said: “No one came out to talk to us. There were armed police at the gates with riot shields—a few dozen of them. Maybe a squadron of them.”
There were a lot of people. Quite a bit more than on Dec. 6, 2005; maybe more than 1,000 took part in the protest itself,
On Sunday, residents of Shigu village staged a sit-in in a bid to prevent the power station from running water pipes across it, because they hadn’t been consulted or compensated.
Soon after, residents said, around 100 thugs hired by the government arrived on the scene and attacked the villagers, injuring more than 20 of them. Local residents poured in from nearby districts to help.
“Yesterday triad mobsters were sent in to clear the water conduit,” the second villager said. “The local residents wouldn’t let them, because they had received no compensation. There were more than 100 mobsters, and there were women and elderly people among the protesters, several dozen.”
“The mobsters set upon the protesters with wooden clubs and beat them, and they surrounded the village so no one could get in or out,” he said.
“More than 20 villagers were injured, and two or three mobsters too. The villagers started to fight back after they were attacked by the thugs. The officials didn’t arrive until the mobsters started getting hurt, and they brought the police with them.”
After that, the enraged villages burned several vehicles belonging to the contractors.
The first villager said: “There was nowhere else for their anger to vent itself. They set fire to a mechanical digger, a tow-truck, and an old tractor. There were at least 2,000 people there then.”
Another witness told RFA’s Cantonese service: “Villagers came from all six villagers in the area to the coal-fired power plant to confront them. Eventually a few vehicles, including a mechanical digger, were destroyed. Construction work can’t continue today because their equipment is broken,” he said.
Calls to the Dongzhou police station and to the Honghaiwan Development Zone office during business hours went unanswered Monday.
Popular unrest has simmered in Dongzhou since the fatal shootings of Dec. 6, 2005, when police opened fire on protesters in the village.
Local residents say the commanding officer and local officials had still not been held responsible for the deaths, which the authorities said were caused by police officers shooting ‘in alarm’ after being attacked by a mob with homemade explosives.
Villagers said they had received only 150 yuan (U.S.$19) annually per person in compensation for land taken to develop coal-fired and wind power plants in the Honghaiwan Development Zone.
The second Dongzhou villager said: “They said they could only give us 150 yuan each. They didn’t say anything else. We had to sign. I said it was unclear where this money came from, so I refused to sign. I didn’t take the money.”
Villagers said equipment from the coal-fired station was continuing to encroach on their land with the installation of pylons to carry electricity away from the plant and the construction of new water inlets.
Since the shootings of December 2005, local officials had taken to appearing less in public, preferring to get gangs of thugs stationed outside the village to attack local residents on their behalf, residents say.
Another villager said: “Nothing has been resolved. Now we have trouble from the mobsters. We have to set a sentry watch at nighttime, which is exhausting.”
Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao and in Cantonese by Lee Kin-kwan. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.