50 Fujian Farmers Head to Beijing Over Land Dispute


2004-07-20
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HONG KONG — ; Tens of thousands of farmers from the Ningde district of China's southeastern province of Fujian, and its provincial capital, Fuzhou city, are preparing to take their bid to remove corrupt local leaders to Beijing.

Peasant representative Huang Jinchun, who was to have led the group of around 50 petitioners to the capital this week, has been prevented from going by local police, but others are making their way to Beijing in small groups and will meet up there soon, he told RFA's Mandarin service.

"We have organized people from these few villages to go to Beijing on our behalf over this question of our land, which [our leaders] sold illegally," Huang told RFA. "There are a lot of secret agents watching us, so I couldn't go with them, even though I wanted to."

The move comes after attempts by local farming communities in February to strip certain top officials in Fuzhou and Fu'an cities of their status as members of the Provincial and National People's Congress.

Among the charges laid against the leaders were the use of military and police force to suppress protesters trying to protect cultural relics, and the misappropriation of around 18 million yuan (U.S.$2.2 million) in compensation money for the transfer of farmland.

But their actions have so far resulted only in four months of beatings and deaths in detention, forced confessions and harassment by local officials and criminal gangs

Prominent peasant activist Lin Zhengxu is being held at an undisclosed location after a previous trip to the State Council Complaints Office and the Land and Resources Bureau in Beijing, and no investigations have so far been carried out in the activities of the leaders concerned.

"They didn't inform us, the family, that he was detained. They didn't dare. We only know because a friend called up in secret to tell us," Lin's wife told RFA.

The requisition of land by local governments and their crony development companies is a frequent cause for complaint in China, as local residents are evicted from their homes with little ceremony and scant compensation so local governments can cash in on skyrocketing property values.

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