HONG KONG—A woman previously reported by Radio Free Asia to have died in the wake of clashes between hundreds of villagers and police over a disputed irrigation sluice gate in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong is alive, but seriously injured.
Initially believed by a number of villagers to have died on the way to the local hospital, Wang Huixin spoke to RFA's Cantonese service from her hospital bed.
"I thought there were rules that tear-gas has to be targeted towards the sky. But it was unexpected that the canisters were being aimed at us," she said.
"The canister hit the bridge of my nose. It’s very painful," said Wang. "But the most painful part is spiritual. We are just ordinary farmers other people just see as insignificant, and ignore us."
I thought there were rules that tear-gas has to be targeted towards the sky...The canister hit the bridge of my nose. It’s very painful. But the most painful part is spiritual. We are just ordinary farmers other people just see as insignificant, and ignore us.
She said her head was seriously injured and that she had suffered constant headaches since the April 12 clashes in Bomei village, near the southern port city of Shantou.
News reporting surrounding the incident has been sharply restricted, with at least one reporter, from Hong Kong’s Chinese-language Oriental Daily News , detained after trying to get into the village.
RFA initially reported that the 34-year-old woman died en route to hospital after she was struck by a tear-gas canister, while five villagers suffered head injuries that witnesses described as "serious."
Initial witness statements indicated that the woman was killed and an unknown number of people were injured following the April 12 clashes.
Police used tear-gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd, witnesses said.
Hundreds of people occupied land around a disputed sluice-gate that local authorities want to destroy, although the gate controls irrigation water for local farmers.
Villagers said Tuesday they had taken officials hostage, and expected an exchange of prisoners, with authorities returning some of their own who were being held by police.
They appeared to have reached a settlement over the sluice-gate.
"We have a settlement with the local officials," a spokesman for the villagers said. "They will not tear down the one water gate. They will not ask any one to take responsibility for what happened on April 12. And they will unfreeze our production construction fund."
"At the moment we are waiting for officials to affix an official seal to the settlement documents. Every villager will have one copy of the document," he added.
An estimated 1,000 armed police were drafted to the area last week, residents said.
A duty officer at the Guangdong provincial public security office in Guangzhou declined to comment following the clashes.
Bomei village is administered by Xilu township in the Chaoyang district of Shantou municipality.
Under China's existing arrangements, all land belongs to the state, but land-use rights and limited leases can be sold and exchanged on the open market.
Under the Household Responsibility System brought in by Deng Xiaoping in 1980, rural authorities contract land to the collective, often a village, which in turn distributes it to individual households.
But heavily indebted local governments often fall back on the use of rural land within their jurisdiction for property developments.
Rural protesters have frequently reported the use of secret meetings, bullying tactics, and mob violence by governments to enforce unpopular land transactions.
At least three people died near the neighboring city of Shanwei in clashes between local residents and armed police in December, in a separate land dispute that prompted a major government crackdown on the area.
Original reporting in Cantonese by Ka-ching Poon and Martin Wong. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie, and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.