At least five people are dead and several seriously injured after a group of club-wielding thugs attacked residents of Baijiamao village in Lin Xian county of central China’s Shanxi province Oct. 12. The villagers were attempting to protect a local coal mine which they assert is their collective property when a mob of some 100 presumably hired by the mine’s new private owner stormed the site in an attempt to remove the residents who had gathered there. The thugs set on the residents with broadswords, steel pipes and shovels, while one even drove a truck into a crowd of villagers.
In the aftermath of the attack, angered local farmers laid three of the corpses out along a major road beside the village, blocking traffic. Lin county officials sent hundreds of police to the scene, where they confronted the protesting villagers, witnesses said.
Jin Jianfeng, a reporter for Beijing-based newspaper Democracy and Law, said his calls to local residents with cell phones were disconnected. He told Radio Free Asia that local authorities have a vested interest in the mine and are complicit in the attack. “All local county officials, such the director and deputy director, as well as police and local court officials are all shareholders in the mining business,” he said. “They are the culprits of this murderous attack.”
Jin, who spent one year in jail last year for exposing corruption in Shanxi’s local mining operations, said the disputed coal mine belongs collectively to Baijiamao village residents, but a private operator sold the mine to another owner without their authorization. Over the past six months, villagers built a group of makeshift tents around the mine site to protect it. The new “owner,” who has been unable to operate the site because of the villagers, hired thugs expel them from the area.
On Oct. 9, the villagers went to Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi, to petition the provincial high court to resolve the dispute. The following day, police arrested villager representative Cheng Pingshun, who is also the village chief.
After provincial authorities intervened, 24 suspects were arrested and the families of the victims given interim monetary compensation pending an investigation. Li Baomin, security chief for the Sanxing Coal Coke Company, turned himself in to police on Oct. 18. Company boss Shi Jinshan committed suicide. (China Daily, Oct. 22; Intercontinental Cry, Oct. 14; Radio Free Asia, Oct. 13)