China Detains Five in Guangdong Land Dispute

2007-11-27
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HONG KONG—Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained at least five people following a protest against a government land grab, residents said.

The local leaders came and took him away--there were a few of them. They said we'd been causing trouble; that we were the ringleaders.

Hundreds of officials and security personnel were patrolling Shibixia village in Huidong county following demonstrations by local residents.

Dozens of local residents had earlier protested the detention of several of their number over the weekend after they tried to lodge an official grievance with provincial authorities.

“There have been police vehicles patrolling the streets all day,” a woman surnamed Zou told RFA’s Cantonese service.

Tight surveillance

“There were people watching our every move,” said the woman, whose father, Zou Yuangui, was detained Saturday.

“The local leaders came and took him away—there were a few of them. They said we’d been causing trouble, that we were the ringleaders.”

A member of staff on duty at the Huidong county police station confirmed the detentions, saying the detainees were in the local detention center and would be charged with “vandalizing public property.”

“We enclosed the site with chain-link fencing and villagers were forbidden to go inside,” he said. “But they cut through the fencing, and we are going to prosecute them.”

Local government requisitioned the 220- mu (14.7-hectare) site on Oct. 29, following a year of discussions with villagers, who complained that the compensation they were being offered was well below market rates.

Officials had offered the villagers a total of 9,000 yuan (U.S. $1,200) to buy replacement land, but they had refused it, staging a sit-in on the land, according to the Zou relative who attended various meetings with the government.

Detentions sparked protest

Zou Yangui’s wife wasn’t there when her husband was detained on the way to work. “He was taken away from us in handcuffs as he reported for work in the morning,” she told Manarin service reporter Yan Xiu.

“I didn’t see him, and I didn’t know this was happening until one of his workmates called me. We don’t know where they’ve taken him, but we think it’s to the detention center, and people say that he’s getting beaten up there.”

Authorities in Shibixia village, which comes under Xunliao township in Guangdong’s Huidong county, also detained two other villagers at the same time, prompting a protest demanding their release outside the Xunliao township government offices.

But authorities declined to give any further details, and detained a further two villagers on Sunday, declining requests by family members to visit them in their police cells.

A fifth villager, Zou Feipeng, was detained by Huidong county police in the southern economic boomtown of Shenzhen, where he was a migrant worker.

Zou Feipeng’s wife said there was nothing she could do.

No explanation given

“They won’t let me see him and they won’t give any explanation when we ask what crimes our relatives are supposed to have committed,” she said.

“Have they committed murder or arson? They tell us it’s none of our business and that we should go home and not to worry.”

Another Zou relative who attended a meeting of 20 villagers and the complaints division of the Guangdong provincial police department said those detained had been among the most active defenders of the villagers’ interests.

They had spent the whole month complaining to relevant departments after local authorities grabbed a chunk of arable land at the beginning of November, even attracting the attention of a journalist from the official Xinhua news agency, who came and carried out interviews in mid-November.

But no report was ever published on the subject by Xinhua, he said.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Yan Xiu, and in Cantonese by Fung Yat-yuen. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. 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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