HONG KONG—Police in China’s southern Guangdong province used electric prods to break up a crowd of several dozen villagers as they pressed a village leader over suspected graft, witnesses say.
Three elderly residents were injured and four people were detained, residents and witnesses said.
“Yesterday afternoon, more than 70 police vehicles pulled up,” one resident of Huangchong village in Shunde’s Beijiao township said of the Oct. 25 clash.
“There were up to 1,000 policemen. Some were anti-riot police. But at the time there were only 30-some villagers there. Three elderly villagers were injured after being beaten by police with electric prods,” the villager said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Four villagers—all young people—were taken away. The villagers didn’t want to clash with the police. We were peaceful.”
My head still hurts very badly. I was beaten by police. Several policemen tried to drag me into a police vehicle.
The police said the villagers had “gathered illegally to cause public disturbance,” another witness said.
An official on duty at the Lingang district police station, which has jurisdiction over Beijiao township, declined to comment on the incident. “I’m not clear on the details,” he said.
“My head still hurts very badly. I was beaten by police. Several policemen tried to drag me into a police vehicle,” Zhong Dahao, 63, said in a telephone interview from her bed at a local hospital.
“They beat me in the head with electric prods. I passed out and lost consciousness. I was just standing next to the secretary of the village committee. I didn’t do anything. I only wanted to get my land back. We have lost our means of livelihood.”
Later Oct. 25-26, several hundred villagers descended on the Beijiao township government building demanding the release of the four detained residents. Officials freed one of them late Oct. 25, while one man and two women were to be held for 10 days, residents said.
“We don’t know on what charges they are being held. They do as they please,” one of the witnesses said.
“Several hundred villagers went to the township government last night and today to plead for their release. At one time there were as many as 800 villagers, including residents from other villages, because the land issue exists everywhere.”
A resident from a neighboring village said the police were sent in because Huangchong villagers had been holding the secretary of their village committee.
But the Huangchong villagers said in interviews that the situation wasn’t serious and that they had been asking the secretary to account for income generated by land expropriated by the local government and rented out to factories.
They said they had asked the secretary of the village committee to sign a statement acknowledging that the land and related income belonged to the villagers’ co-op.
Tensions have been mounting in the village, where more than 500 mu (roughly 83 acres) of land have been appropriated by the local government and leased to factories—with some leases as long as 36 years, according to residents.
At issue is the difference between rent paid by the factories, about 10,000 yuan (U.S. $1,333.33) per mu per year, and the fees paid back to the villagers, of about 2,000 yuan (U.S. $266.67) per mu per year.
Villagers suspect that cadres on the village committee are pocketing the difference of 8,000 yuan, they said.
In mid-September, 1,500 villagers signed a petition demanding that the village committee explain where the money had gone and restore land ownership to the village co-op. Since then, villagers—sometimes up to several hundred at a time—have surrounded the village committee to make their demands known.
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 by Ding Xiao for RFA’s Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.