China: peasant uprising in Guangdong over land-grab

Thousands of villagers attacked government buildings in the southern Chinese city of Lufeng, Guangdong province, in a protest over land sales Sept. 22. The protests, in which around a dozen were hurt, were triggered by the seizure of several hectares of land and their sale to property developer Country Garden for 1 billion yuan ($156.6 million) at the village of Wukan. Witnesses said villagers were beaten after they surrounded a police station, armed with sticks and bricks. The government of Shanwei prefecture accused villagers of having “ulterior motives” and of “inciting” other villagers to charge into the police station by spreading rumors about police officers beating a child to death. At least four villagers have been detained.

Chinese authorities blocked searches for “Lufeng” on China’s Twitter-style microblogging service Weibo, with a message saying the “relevant legal regulations” prevented display of the results. But local media websites seem to provide a certain forum for dissent. A message on the Internet bulletin board of the Southern Daily, Guangdong’s official newspaper, says Wukan residents petitioned many times in 2009 and 2010 about the land disputes that triggered the riot. Wrote one user: “Please tell us, just who will take charge of this case? Do we really have nowhere to complain?”

Unrest appears to be growing in Guangdong’s famed Pearl River Delta “world factory” zone that accounts for around a third of China’s exports. Earlier this year, in the Guangdong factory town of Zengcheng, thousands of migrant workers rioted over the alleged maltreatment of a female co-worker, torching government offices, smashing police cars and marching in their thousands through the streets.

Protests and incidents of “mass unrest” have risen recently, fuelled by rapid economic transformation, according to Zhou Ruijin, a former deputy editor of the People’s Daily, writing in current affairs magazine China through the Ages. Between 1993 and 2006, the national number of recorded “mass incidents” grew from 8,708 to around 90,000, Zhou wrote in the September edition of the magazine. From 2007 to 2009, the number of such incidents was consistently above 90,000. “These conflicts are concentrated in rural land requisitions and urban housing demolition, as well as in resource development and environmental protection,” wrote Zhou. (AP, Reuters, Sept. 23)

See our last post on the peasant struggle in China.

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