Southeastern China: Riot Police in Land Clash


Authorities in the southeastern province of Fujian have deployed hundreds of riot police to disperse protesters defending their farmland from being taken away by the government, residents and officials said on Friday.

The riot police, using tear gas and electric batons, clashed with the protesters in Xindian township near Fujian’s provincial capital, Fuzhou, on Thursday. Some protests persisted on Friday, local sources said.

“It was pretty scary yesterday,” said a protester, Zhang Yueming, adding that he was among those beaten by police during the protest. Continue reading

Chinese Peasants Petitioners Attacked and Beaten by Security Personnel and Hired Thugs


Chinese security personnel and hired thugs attacked and beat a group of peasant petitioners in Fuzhou, capital of China’s southeastern province of Fujian, on Monday, witnesses said.

About 300 peasants from Gulou, Jingan, and other districts of Fuzhou had gathered outside the Provincial Office of Letters and Visits to voice complaints about forced relocations and land-grabs, but were violently dispersed, the witnesses said.

“More than 10 villagers have been beaten up. Two of them fell on the ground,” said Lin Xuguang, a peasant from Liuqiao village in Jingan district. Continue reading

China PM’s meet with petitioners a carefully orchestrated political show, Human Rights Watch says


By Susan Stumme (AFP), Jan. 26, 2011-

BEIJING — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has met citizens in Beijing petitioning for redress over unpaid wages, home demolitions and land grabs, state media said Wednesday — the first such meeting in six decades.

Wen’s visit to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls — where petitioners go to file complaints with authorities — highlighted the mounting anger felt by many Chinese living in a one-party state that enforces its will by diktat.

It was the first such trip by a premier since communist China was founded in 1949, the reports said, and it received widespread coverage in print and broadcast media.

But amid rising levels of public protest across China, Wen’s conversations with unhappy citizens were slammed by Human Rights Watch as a political show. Continue reading

Tens of Thousands in Standoff with Police in Eastern China Over Land Grabs By Officials


By Rona Rui, Epoch Times Staff, July 19, 2010 -

Yet another large-scale violent clash has broken out between angry villagers and police over land grabs by government officials in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province, this time involving tens of thousands of protesters. Local media made no mention of the incident.

During the five-day standoff between July 14 and July 18, several thousand villagers took over the government building while the government called in riot police. At one point the crowd of angry protesters grew to as many as twenty to thirty thousand.

The incident took place in Gaoxin District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province. It began when thousands of local villagers from Tong’an Township of Gaoxin District gathered at the township government building. They came to express their indignation over the local government’s illegal takeover of their farmland. Tens of thousands of mu (1 mu = 0.16 acre) had been illegally expropriated during the past seven years without fair compensation to the villagers.

When the villagers found officials unresponsive, they became angry and took over the government building, breaking some equipment and bringing government business to a halt as officials fled.

On the morning of July 16 the government called in approximately 500 riot police to break up the protest. While most villagers had gone home to rest, riot police started attacking the remaining protesters.

According to local residents, the riot police beat up the several hundred remaining villagers in order to drive them away. Enraged villagers retaliated with bricks and beer bottles. Dozens of villagers were injured and taken to hospital. Several dozen more were arrested. The confrontation lasted about half an hour.

The police violence caused even greater anger among the villagers. After sunrise on July 17, local residents and relatives of those arrested, proceeded to blockade National Highway 312 in Gaoxin district to continue their protest.

Many more local residents rushed to the blocked highway during the day. According to local residents, villagers from surrounding communities also came to support the protest, and at one time there were as many as twenty to thirty thousand.

Witnesses at the scene told The Epoch Times that in 2003 under the guise of constructing new high-tech industrial parks, the local government started to forcefully take away land from farmers. The farmers never received the compensation promised by the government, and the tens of thousands of mu of farmland had lain deserted for the past six plus years. Recently the local government started to auction off the land at prices ten or more times the purchase price. The government’s unjust compensation caused great resentment among local residents.

The incident has alarmed the city government of Suzhou. The communist party secretary of Suzhou rushed to the area on July 18 and held a meeting with local officials to discuss countermeasures. The government also dispatched more police from the surrounding cities of Wuxi and Zhangjiagang. There were several thousand police.

No additional information of further police crackdowns was available at the time of this article submission.


News Censored

During these several days of conflict, no local media reported the incident. Internet blog postings by eyewitnesses were quickly deleted by the regime. Local residents expressed hope that more media would come to the scene to experience the severity of the situation.

Forced land expropriation, forced relocation, government corruption and police brutality are commonplace in China and have become a source of anger and unrest in many areas. The Epoch Times and other media have recently reported on several large-scale protests in different areas of the country.

On July 5, ten thousand villagers in China’s southeastern Jiangxi Province staged a protest against police brutality, relocation and corrupt local officials. The relocation of villagers was ordered by local authorities because villagers had expressed concern over health issues arising from pollution by a local mining company. The enraged citizens, armed with bricks and stones, smashed town hall windows and turned over police cars in response to police beating two women petitioners into a coma.

On June 11, ten thousand citizens had a standoff with police in Maanshan City, Anhui Province over a student being assaulted by a local official. Military police and riot police were dispatched to break through the crowd with batons, shields and tear gas. Many people were injured. Local media did not report on the massive protest.

The use of force and media control are two of the means by which the Chinese communist regime attempts to maintain social stability.

- The Epochtimes

Chinese farmer fires homemade rockets to forced eviction teams to defend land


Reuters, Tue Jun 8, 2010 -

(Reuters) – A Chinese farmer has declared war on property developers who want his land, building a canon out of a wheelbarrow and pipes and firing rockets at would-be eviction teams, state media said on Tuesday.

Yang Youde, who lives on the outskirts of bustling Wuhan city, in central Hubei province, says he has fended off two eviction attempts with his improvised weapon, which uses ammunition made from locally sold fireworks.

“I shot only over their heads to frighten them,” the China Daily quoted him saying of his attacks on demolition workers sent to move him off his land. “I didn’t want to cause any injuries.”

The rockets can travel over 100 metres, and exploded with a deafening bang, the official paper added. It did not say if anyone had been injured.

His approach is more aggressive than most, but Yang’s problem is a common one.

Anger over property confiscation is one of the leading causes of unrest in China, with many people forced to give up homes and land to make way for anything from roads to luxury villas.

Yang says the local government has offered him 130,000 yuan ($19,030) for his fields, on which they want to erect “department buildings”. He is asking for five times that amount.

Construction ditches have already been dug across the land of less obstinate neighbours.

A first eviction team attacked him in February after his rockets ran out, but local police came to his rescue. In May he held off 100 people by firing from a makeshift watchtower.

The government is planning to reform property confiscation rules, but rights groups say the changes do not go far enough to address the potentially destabilising issue.

- Reuters

Tensions run high between farmers and officials in north China’s kindergarten attack area


Radio Free Asia, May. 17, 2010-

HONG KONG— Residents of Nanzheng county in China’s northern province of Shaanxi have painted a grim picture of simmering pressures among farming communities in the region, after last week’s gruesome attack on a kindergarten in the area.

Villagers living in a different town in the same county where the killings occurred say they have been bombarded with government requisition notices for their farmland amid the global economic slowdown, sparking protests, beatings, and detentions for anyone who tries to protest the loss of his or her land.

“The whole county is rife with land profiteering,” said one resident of Dahekan township, Li Jinyi.

“Murky Nanzheng and corrupt Hanzhong have pushed local farmers to death’s door… Things have been so hard for us these past few years.”

Nine people, seven of them small children aged four and five, were confirmed dead at the Hanzhong Municipal 3201 Hospital after a local man went on a rampage with a kitchen cleaver before committing suicide in nearby Shengshui township last week.

“They are requisitioning land again,” Li, 87, said. “They have publicized that they will build a ‘Times Square.’”

“The announcement is telling local farmers to stop tilling the fields, and that the land will be fenced off. In reality, it will be given to property developers. When they have taken all our land, there’ll be nothing left for us to live on,” he said.

Last month, Dahekan villagers said they were beaten by a gang of men allegedly hired by a local property development company after they protested plans to use 170 mu (11.3 hectares) of their farmland for the construction of an “International Health Spa.”

In total, residents of Sanhuashi, Yuying, and Dianzijie villages in the Dahekan area said a total of 4,000 mu of farmland had been taken over by local governments in the area since 2007, with more than 300 families forcibly evicted from their homes.

Left homeless

Yuying villager Tuo Ruilian said the land grabs were made under the auspices of a highway project.

“They have taken more than 4,000 mu of land from these four villages, and the government and developer have got together to beat up the local people,” Tuo said, adding that repeated complaints and attempts at lawsuits had been ignored by the authorities.

“We are law-abiding citizens, yet they have demolished our homes. And to this day, the entire family, young and old, is homeless. We are living in a shack made of asbestos tiles on the site of an abandoned factory by the river, where the weeds grow,” Tuo said.

“Nobody cares about us. We have made complaint after complaint to higher levels of government, and I have been detained three times by the government,” he said.

An employee who answered the phone at the Dahekan township government offices declined to answer questions about the villagers’ allegations.

“I don’t know. I have no comment,” he said.

However, an employee who answered the phone at the Nanzheng county government planning and construction bureau confirmed that there are a number of intercity highway projects affecting villages in the area.

“They are basic infrastructure projects,” the official said. “For example, urban highways and other projects for the public good.”

An employee who answered the phone at the Nanzheng county Land and Resources Reserve and Exchange Center confirmed that the local authorities had recently sold at auction a plot of more than 100 mu of farmland in Dianzijie village.

“It was zoned for residential development,” he said.

“It was just sold recently. A plot of land just to the south of the Nanzheng highway in Dianzijie.”…… (more details from Radio Free Asia)

China: Schools locked up for Migrant Children in suburb of Beijing


Radio Free Asia, 2010-03-02 -

HONG KONG- The Year of the Tiger got off to a gloomy start for hundreds of children of migrant workers in the Chinese capital, as authorities locked the gates of their schools and warned the principals not to carry on teaching them.

“The village and township officials all came to the school,” said Principal Wang of Taoyuan School in an eastern suburb of Beijing, which is currently home to thousands of migrant workers from rural China.

“[Then] some security guards came and locked the school gates, then went away again,” said Wang, whose school lies in Cuigezhuang, one of a number of areas scheduled for demolition and redevelopment in Beijing’s eastern Chaoyang district.

Local residents said at least seven schools in the same area had been similarly affected, with students unable to resume class after the Lunar New Year holidays.

Authorities had already served the schools with notices that they should close by Feb. 28., and the gates of several schools were locked by officials early Monday morning.

“Nobody dares to open the schools,” Principal Wang said. “The local government has made it very clear that they have their own methods of dealing with it if we go ahead and open the school, including violence,” he said.

“There were more than 20 security guards who came to the school … It’s the same in Shanggao, Beigao, Shanggezhuang, and Cuigezhuang,” Wang said. “This is a unified plan of action.”

Authorities in Naixi village had also closed the Wende School there Monday, although the village wasn’t yet in an area scheduled for demolition. The school still had some time left to run on its rental lease, the school principal said……. (Radio Free Asia)

20 China artists protest in Beijing Tiananmen over demolition: report


AFP, Feb. 22, 2010-

BEIJING — About 20 Chinese artists including outspoken activist Ai Weiwei protested in central Beijing over the demolition of an art zone in the east of the capital, state media and a rights group said Tuesday.

The protest on Monday came amid simmering anger in China over land seizures, which have often involved corrupt officials keen to secure real estate profits as the country’s property market booms.

The artists marched on Chang’An Avenue, one of Beijing’s main thoroughfares that passes by Tiananmen Square, scene of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations that ended in a bloody crackdown, media reports and rights activists said.

They carried posters reading “Civil Rights!” and “Capital Beijing, brutal demolition!”, which were confiscated by police, the state Global Times newspaper reported.

The protesters attempted to reach Tiananmen Square, the heart of political power in China, but were stopped by police about two kilometres (one mile) away, it said.

The artists decried what they called “assaults by thugs hired by local authorities” to force them out of the complex, and said their land contracts were still valid.

The government and land developers have said the artists need to move out to make way for redevelopment of the area.

An investigation has been launched into nine assaults allegedly carried out early Monday when the artists tried to prevent dozens of masked men from destroying their studios, the report said.

One Japanese national, identified as Satoshi Iwama, needed five stitches for a head wound, according to the Global Times and the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), an activist network.

Local officials denied any involvement in the purported beatings……. (more details from AFP)

(photos) Land Dispute- Village sealed off, news blackout after violent clashes between residents and police in southwestern China


Radio Free Asia, jan 26, 2010-

Protesting villagers are dispersed by police in Pingle county, Guangzhou, Jan. 19, 2010. (RFA)

HONG KONG— Authorities in the southwestern Chinese region of Guizhou have sealed off a village and ordered a news blackout following violent clashes between local residents and police in a land dispute.

“The villagers put up some reports about what happened on the Internet, but they were taken down by the authorities very quickly,” said a resident of Tongle township near the scenic tourist city of Guilin.

“Right now the authorities have totally sealed off the area. The villagers are using text messaging to exchange news,” said Zhang, adding that he had been warned by other villagers that the police were still detaining people.

Police move to confront villagers protesting a land grab in Guizhou, Jan. 19, 2010. Credit: Tongle villager Zhang (RFA)

Zhang said riot police fired tear gas and used electric shock batons on elderly protesters trying to prevent the takeover of their farmland for development.

“Things got very serious at the scene,” he said. “The people trying to protect the land were all elderly, women, and children. How could they resist?”

“They were attacked by the riot police first, and a lot of those injured were then taken away by police.”

Photos posted online of the clashes showed crowds of people, many of them elderly, some of whom had sustained injuries to their arms and legs. Some showed people bandaged, and still bleeding from head injuries.

‘Handled according to law’

A villager nurses his wounds after police clashed with protesters in Guanzhou, Jan. 19, 2010. Credit: Tongle villager Zhang

An employee who answered the phone at the Pingle county government, which oversees Tongle village, said the authorities had already issued the legally required amount of compensation to the villagers.

“Our leaders here have already dealt with this situation,” the employee said. “Everything we did went through the municipal level authorities for approval, and the entire affair was handled according to law.”

An official who answered the phone at the Guilin municipal politics and law committee confirmed the clashes had taken place as part of a land dispute.

“There was a land dispute there. But I haven’t got time to explain the details to you.”

An official who answered the phone at the Guilin municipal public security department declined to comment on the incident.

However, an officer at the Tongle village police station said: “We are currently dealing with this issue. If you want to know more, you’ll have to go to the [county level] public security department.”

Cut off

Local residents said around 700 riot police were dispatched to the village, and that the community was still cut off from the outside world.

An engineer surnamed Li at the Tongle Village Transformer Station said police had sealed off several entrances to the village, and blocked roads in the area.

“Right now, vehicles from outside can’t get into Tongle village. The roads have all been sealed off by the authorities,” Li said.

“They have blocked the exit for the village on the Chajiang Bridge highway.”

The dispute flared after villagers saw officials begin to move in to begin work last Tuesday on a plot of around 1,000 mu (67 hectares) of land in the village, which was requisitioned more than two years ago by the Pingle county government for redevelopment.

Local residents were angry because the authorities had sold the land for 10 times the amount of the compensation doled out to villagers, and because they have been promised 20,000-30,000 yuan (U.S. $4,394) per mu but have yet to receive it.

An open letter posted online by villagers cited guidelines issued by the central government, which “states clearly that it is not permitted to take possession of the land before the compensation has been paid.”…… (more details from Radio Free asia)

Four Held in Farmland Clashes Between Police and Local residents in South China


Radio Free Asia, 2009-10-23 -

HONG KONG— Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained four villagers following clashes this week between police and local residents over a disputed sale of farmland which left six people in hospital.

Work on a planned economic development zone in Shuidong township near Guangdong’s Maoming city has halted following the standoff, which villagers said left three people seriously injured.

“The villagers broke through the perimeter wall of the construction site,” a local resident who attended the protest said.

“The wall collapsed. We haven’t seen any workers going in or out, so it seems as if work has stopped for the time being.”

“Things are normal in the village now. No one is protesting.”

Blockade

Clashes broke out Tuesday when more than 100 villagers converged on the construction site to block the way of construction workers and machinery.

An official who answered the phone at the Shuidong No. 1 Detention Center Thursday confirmed that some people were being held there following the clashes.

But he said, “I can’t tell you what they are being charged with or when they will be released. You will have to call the police for that.”

An employee who answered the phone at the local police station declined to answer questions about the incident.

“The government took away our land, so we were going to snatch it back again,” a resident of Dianbai village near Maoming city surnamed Wu said.

“But they wouldn’t let us have it.”

He said around 100 villagers had marched to the site to get in the way of construction work.

“There were older people, of 50 or 60, women, elderly, and children. All went along,” Wu said.

“The clashes started when we tried to stop work on the site. The police were beating up a lot of people, and many were injured. There are still a few people in the People’s Hospital. There were about 50 police officers,” he added……. (More details from Radio Free Asia)

Central China Farmers Protest Land Grabs


In an undated photo, residents of Nanwan village in southern Guangdong province protest outside a government building against alleged corruption surrounding an eel farm built on their land. (Provided by villagers, published by Radio Free Asia)

Radio Free Asia, 2009-07-22 -

In an undated photo, residents of Nanwan village in southern Guangdong province protest outside a government building against alleged corruption surrounding an eel farm built on their land. (Provided by villagers, published by Radio Free Asia)

HONG KONG— Villagers in one of the poorest regions of China have vowed they will fight a government proposal to use their farmland for a cement factory, as a deadline for agreement set by local officials passed on Wednesday.

Residents of poverty-stricken Gushi county in the central province of Henan said they had been sent a letter only last week by village-level officials proposing the sale of a plot of desperately needed farmland at below-market compensation levels.

Dongba village resident Wang Dengyou said the villagers are dependent on agriculture as a way to eke out a living.

“Our plan was not to sell this land,” said Wang, who received the government letter offering 12,500 yuan (U.S.$1,830) per mu (0.06 hectares). “If we sell it, then we won’t have anything to eat.”

“We decided that it wasn’t enough compensation,” he said. “Even if the price was a bit higher, if we sold it we would still have lost our food supply.”

The government letter also threatened the villagers with land requisition and no compensation at all if they refused the offer, residents said.

Alleged corruption

Villagers accused local officials of skimming off a high percentage of money received from the property developers for the land.

“If you think about it, the county government has received 20,000 yuan per mu, while they are only offering 12,500 yuan per mu to the villagers,” Dongba resident Yang Huaibing said.

“This is being pulled by [officials in] our village.”

Calls to the Dongba village government and nearby Wangpeng village government went unanswered during office hours Tuesday.

According to local media reports, a series of land disputes has followed county Party secretary Guo Yongchang’s 2004 pledge to bring more investment to Henan, which has some of the poorest rural communities in China, as local officials make bids to acquire land in the area.

New developments have included spacious business centers and palatial government office buildings, reports said……. (more details from Radio Free Asia)

China orders evening curfew and street closure to curb unrest after new riots


By Ian Ransom, Reuters, Wednesday, November 19, 2008 -

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has told police to ensure stability amid the global financial crisis, while thousands of people attacked police and government offices in a northwestern city in unrest triggered by a plan to resettle residents.

After decades of solid economic growth, China is battling an unknown as falling demand for its products triggers factory closures, sparks protests and raises fears of popular unrest.

Rioting involving thousands of people exploded on Monday in Wudu, in Gansu province’s poverty-stricken region of Longnan, where 1.8 million people were made homeless by the May 12 Sichuan earthquake.

The unrest, which flared up again on Tuesday, saw rioters invade local government offices, loot equipment and torch police cars, though the incident appeared to be related to a local dispute rather than the slowing economy.

The Longnan rioting follows a number of strikes by taxi drivers and labor protests in the country’s major export regions, where thousands of factories have closed in recent months, prompting fears the global financial crisis could stir wider popular unrest.

Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu said police “should be fully aware of the challenge brought by the global financial crisis and try their best to maintain social stability,” according to the China Daily.

State media said the riots were triggered by a scheme to move the government headquarters to a neighboring county, which would force local residents to relocate, and had prompted fears from some residents about future housing and livelihoods.

Youtube footage showed police struggling to restore order while being pelted with stones. Pictures on Chinese web portals showed columns of armed riot police sheltering beneath shields.

An uneasy calm had fallen on Wudu on Wednesday, after authorities ordered an evening curfew and closed major streets and local businesses, according to local residents, who said heavy-handed police had inflamed the riots.

“No one’s rioting today, the streets are all closed … People will be snatched if they go out after 10 p.m. at night, so no-one dares to go out,” a hotel worker who declined to leave his name told Reuters by telephone.

“Actually, there were only a few thousand petitioners, but police fired tear gas which made women and children sick. This made the others angry,” he said. …… (more from Reuters: China seeks to curb unrest after new riots)

100 people arrested in Northwest China after riot over land dispute


Radio Free Asia, 2008-11-19 -

HONG KONG—Police in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu have arrested more than 100 people after thousands of farmers fought with police in the midst of protests over a land dispute.

“One hundred seventeen people were arrested at the scene [Tuesday] but no one was arrested today,” an officer at the Longnan city police bureau said in an interview. He also said some 200 police had been mobilized to bring the situation under control.

Witnesses said armed police were guarding government buildings, and local hospitals were treating an unknown number of people injured in the clashes.

The Longnan city Web site said police had used force to disperse the crowd as a last resort after protesters attacked police and officials with stones, steel pipes, and bricks, and set fire to motorcycles, bicycles, and buildings.

The official statement put the size of the crowd at 1,000 but numerous witnesses said it was many times that number.

A resident surnamed Zhou said he had seen about a dozen vehicles transporting armed police to the area, who then searched and arrested more than 100 people.

A farmer, also surnamed Zhou, said shops in Wu Du district were closed for a second day on Wednesday.

“When I went out to the street this morning, all the shops were closed. There were six or seven farmers walking by the street, and then suddenly the police were beating them up and taking them away,” she said.

“Very few pedestrians are walking on the street. It’s like a ghost town,” she said, adding that police were checking identification papers of anyone trying to travel to neighboring areas.

Police deployed

After farmers from Dongjiang township gathered around local Communist Party headquarters for a second day, authorities deployed Longnan city police to quell crowds angered by the compensation they were offered for their land.

Witnesses said police used batons and tear-gas to quell the riot, in which the city Web site said farmers attacked officials and set fire to property.

Another farmer surnamed Zhou who took part in the protest said demonstrators were angered over their treatment by police removing them from a building site on Nov. 17, prompting a larger crowd to return the next day……. (more details from Radio Free Asia)

Thousands of Protestors Overrun Communist Office in Northwest China


By Samuel Spencer, Epoch Times Staff, Nov 18, 2008 -

People watch armed police from the side of the street. (The Epoch Times)

People watch armed police from the side of the street. (The Epoch Times)

Between 2,000 and 10,000 people protested and attacked a Communist Party office in Gansu province of Northwest China early Tuesday. 60 people were reported to have been hurt in the protests.

The numbers of protestors varied in reports —state-run media reported 2,000 protestors, and various online blogs reported that close to 10,000 people had been protesting.

The riots are believed to have occurred due to the regime’s decision to move its offices at the city of Longnan to another city. One blog reported that the move had resulted in the termination of housing construction for thousands of families who had been affected in the Sichuan earthquake. The May earthquake killed 275 people in Longnan and destroyed many houses.

State-run media reported that 30 residents had gathered on Monday to protest the reallocation of the office, but that the number had quickly grown.

The violence is only the latest of numerous angry protests that have broken out against the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

In recent weeks, numerous protests by disgruntled taxi drivers have broken out across the country, especially in Chongqing. The taxi driver protests were prompted by what many believe to be collusion between the regime and fleet owners to let taxi drivers bear the brunt of the fallout from low fares and rising costs.

In June, 30,000 people rioted outside the Party office in Guizhou province, setting fire to government vehicles after a local girl’s death. The death of the 15-year-old girl, who had been raped and murdered, was widely rumored to have been covered up by police and government officials.

The Chinese Communist Party has often used a growing economy to offset questions about its human rights records and its iron-fisted rule, but the recent economic downturn is now testing the limits of how far free expression can go under the Communist regime.

- The Epochtimes

China orders demolition of leading rights activist’s home


AFP, Nov. 17, 2008-

BEIJING (AFP) — Beijing authorities have issued an order to destroy the home of one of China’s leading rights activists, who has been in police custody for more than 200 days, her husband and lawyer said Tuesday.

The plight of Ni Yulan is one of the highest-profile of the many so-called “land grab” cases in China, where city residents are evicted from their homes or farmers kicked off their lands to make way for developments.

Ni, 47, is a long-time campaigner against such government-backed land grabs and was jailed for a year in 2002 for her activist work, and she is now facing losing the home she shares with her husband.

Beijing’s Xicheng court recently ordered developers to level Ni’s home and told the family to vacate the premises by Friday last week, her husband, Dong Jiqin, told AFP, adding he had refused to leave.

“They stuck the demolition notice on our front door,” Dong said.

“Nobody came to talk with us, there were no negotiations for compensation, no public hearings.”

Dong said the notice informed him they would be given an apartment somewhere else in Beijing, but there were few details and no official came to speak with them about the offer.

Ni was sentenced in 2002 for “damaging public property” after being arrested at a rally aimed at stopping the demolition of another courtyard home in Beijing.

Dong and rights activists said she was beaten in the 2002 arrest and has since had to walk with a cane due to injuries sustained then.

At that time, Dong and Ni’s courtyard home, in a historic part of central Beijing, became a target for developers and she was re-arrested in late April this year as she campaigned to stop it from being knocked down.

Ni was charged with “obstructing official business,” and she has been in custody ever since, although she has not appeared in court.

Her lawyer, Hu Xiao, said he was pushing for court proceedings to begin quickly.

“She is physically weak and her jailing has put a lot of stress on her,” Hu told AFP.

“She is a handicapped person, so we have asked the court to begin her trial as soon as possible out of respect for her health.”

Dong and Hu said they had hoped a death sentence handed down last month to the head of the Xicheng court, which has overseen Ni’s case, for corruption related to building projects may have helped their cause.

The sentencing of Xicheng court chief Guo Shenggui was announced a few days after one of China’s top law enforcement officials vowed to protect the rights of ordinary citizens in land grab cases.

Dong said he had all along suspected that Guo approved her jailing in 2002 and the police harassment that had followed them ever since.

But he said he feared now that their initial hopes following Guo’s downfall were misplaced.

The Xicheng court refused to answer questions from AFP on Tuesday.

Land grab cases are one of the most sensitive social issues in China, and frequently lead to protests.

As all land belongs to the state in China, local officials enjoy immense powers to determine land-use rights, and critics say residents and farmers are often forcefully evicted in shady deals between the government and developers.

In the latest such incident reported in the state-run press, up to 2,000 people attacked a local Communist Party headquarters in northwest China’s Gansu province on Tuesday.

The protesters smashed windows of the party building and nearby cars in Longnan city to protest the forced demolition of homes and eviction of tenants there, according to the Xinhua news agency.

- AFP

(Video) Hundreds Villagers Clash With Thousand of Armed Police in Southeast China


Radio Free Asia, Oct. 15, 2008-

A new clash erupts in southern China over the value of farmland slated for development.

HONG KONG— Police fired tear-gas and detained more than a dozen villagers in China’s southern Guangdong province during a clash with hundreds of demonstrators protesting what they describe as inadequate compensation for their farmland, witnesses said.

A witness surnamed Li said violence broke out Tuesday when villagers from Guangning county tried to stop construction workers from filling in their farmland with soil for the building of an industrial park.

“Hundreds of us villagers tried to stop the equipment from reaching the farmland.  They mobilized more than 1,000 police and used tear-gas on us. The villagers were incapacitated. Then they threw rocks at the villagers and beat them,” Li said.


A video sent by a witness acting as a citizen journalist in Guangning county, Guangdong province (RFA).

Police moved into the villages and rounded up participants, he said. “The police have cordoned off the villages and many are unable to leave the villages. More than a dozen from Hebu, Chayuan, and Mabu villages were detained.”

Scores injured

Another witness, a woman surnamed Xie, said scores were injured in the incident, including many elderly villagers. “There were between 1,000 and 2,000 police. Many villagers were beaten,” Xie said.

“Villagers in their 70s and 80s marched ahead of the crowd. They didn’t want their children and grandchildren to lose the land. The police pushed them, they fell. The young ones went up to help them. And the police started beating people,” she said.

Ma Meiju, a woman in her 50s from Chayuan village, was beaten by armed police and admitted to Guangning county hospital for treatment, her son said.

When her husband, Li Hairong, and younger son, Li Jincai, tried to intervene, the two were arrested on charges of obstruction of official business.

“Three or four armed police pushed my mom down in the woods and beat her over the head with a wooden stick. They also kicked her in the stomach and the leg,” Ma’s elder son said.

“My dad and brother went up with a couple of bottles containing gasoline and were detained on charges of obstruction of official business. Who could stand by and watch when their mom and wife are beaten? Something is wrong with police beating a woman,” he said.

On Wednesday, villagers said hundreds of police remained on alert and were searching for three people identified as protest ringleaders, identified as Li Fujing, Li Qiaozhong and Lu Dahua.

A Dong, a resident of Cha Yuan village, said police had posted “wanted” photos of three people accused of “obstructing government work” and urged residents to share information about them. “We’re still wondering what crimes they are accused of committing,” he said.

Officials have warned residents that they must submit land compensation claims by Oct. 22.

Car torched

Villagers said that police had searched the home of one of the wanted men, Li Fujing, and that unidentified people set his car on fire. Another witness reported seeing four vehicles ablaze around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

“The fire broke out suddenly…Many people woke up and tried to put out the fire. There are many residential houses nearby,” one villager surnamed Li said.

Another villager surnamed Xie said Li’s home “was searched and somebody set his personal property on fire. I think they just want to smoke them out to turn themselves in.”

Checkpoints, phone trouble

Another villager surnamed Lin returned home Wednesday after leaving briefly to avoid trouble with the police. He said many villagers’ mobile phones weren’t working and police were out in force.

“Many armed police are standing guard at every entrance to the village and roadblocks have been set up too,” Lin said. “Passengers in cars are subject to ID checks. I saw hundreds of police just in our village—and lots of plainclothes police around all the affected villages. “

Officials at the county police station hung up the phone when contacted by a Hong Kong-based reporter.

“I cannot make calls to the outside, but outside people can call me,” one villager said. “And other villagers can  make only local calls. I first noticed this problem on Oct. 13.”

Villagers ‘causing trouble’

A Wuhe township government official who refused to give his name and job title acknowledged that efforts were made to expropriate farmland on Monday, that police were called in to maintain order, and that some villagers had been detained.

“On Monday a small number of villagers caused trouble. We requested assistance from police to maintain order. After the crowd was dispersed on Monday, the construction went ahead as planned today,” the official said.

He declined to say exactly how many villagers had been detained.

According to the Wuhe township government official, the industrial park requires the expropriation of more than 1,000 mu (67 hectares) of farmland.

He said the villagers had been compensated at an above-market rate and only a small number had resisted the land expropriation because of their belief in fengshui, an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics believed to create harmony through physical surroundings.

“The industrial park is a municipal-level priority project. The entire expropriation process was conducted in accordance with the law, but some villagers refuse to turn the land over because of their superstitious belief in fengshui,” the official said.

The villagers claim that they were only offered a one-off compensation scheme at the rate of 16,000 yuan (U.S. $2,344) for each mu expropriated. Many were unhappy with the offer and said they had signed several petitions during the last year.

Intimidation tactics

One woman, surnamed Li, said that the authorities pressured villagers to sign the land-sale agreement, and in late September even began to intimidate their children.

“The kids came home from school and said they were forced to sign statements vowing not to cause trouble. It’s the right thing to do for farmers to protect their farmland. We never signed the agreement to sell the land,” she said.

“But they carried out the scheme anyway. And now they are after those of us who petitioned our case. The people’s police [are] in full gear, including bullet-proof vests, and with police dogs,” Li said.

Villagers said that as of late Tuesday between 40 and 50 villagers were still under surveillance.

Some were taken away and their whereabouts are unknown. They said that when reporters from the Zhujiang Daily, a local newspaper, tried to go to the protest site, the trip was inexplicably cancelled.

Land protests spreading

Land disputes have spread across China in recent years, with local people often complaining that they receive only minimal compensation when the government sells tracts to developers.

In June, 900 vegetable farmers in China’s central Hubei province were involved in violent clashes with police over the course of ten days when authorities tried to seize their farmland for redevelopment.

The local government attempted to develop the land despite the fact that the farmers had rejected a compensation package that many said was too low. Scores of farmers were detained during the protests and at least one was detained.

In April, one villager was killed and five critically wounded when armed police opened fire on up to 100 protesters demanding a halt to the building of a mine in China’s southern Yunnan province.

Villagers had refused a compensation package offered by the mining company for the tract of land and were angered when the company proceeded with construction plans.

- Radio Free Asia

2008 Beijing Olympics tainted by a sharp increase in human rights abuses : HRW


Human Rights Watch, August 6, 2008-

(New York, August 6, 2008) – The 2008 Beijing Olympics will open tainted by a sharp increase in human rights abuses directly linked to China’s preparations for the games, Human Rights Watch said today. The games open on August 8, 2008.

The run-up to the Beijing Olympics has been marred by a well-documented surge in violations of the rights of free expression and association, as well as media freedom. In addition, abuses of migrant construction workers who were pivotal to Beijing’s infrastructure improvements have increased, as have evictions of Beijing residents whose homes were demolished to make way for that infrastructure. Those abuses reflect both the Chinese government’s wholesale failure to honor its Olympics-related human rights promises, as well as the negligence of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in ensuring that China fulfills its commitments.

“The Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee have had seven years to deliver on their pledges that these games would further human rights,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “Instead, the Beijing Games have prompted a rollback in some of the most basic rights enshrined in China’s constitution and international law.”

Human Rights Watch pointed particularly to the following ongoing abuses and some of their most recent victims:

* The silencing of Chinese citizens who express concerns about Olympics-related rights abuses through intimidation, imprisonment, and the use of house arrest. For example, Ye Guozhu, a 53-year-old housing rights activist, remains in prison despite having completed his four-year prison sentence in July 2008. After attempting to organize protests against forced evictions related to the Beijing Olympics, Ye was convicted on December 18, 2004, on charges of “suspicion of disturbing social order.” Ye’s family has said they believe the government will hold him until after the games to prevent him from speaking freely.
* Evictions and demolitions for Olympics-related infrastructure. Hundreds of thousands of residents have been evicted and their homes demolished in the course of Beijing’s makeover. Ni Yulan, a 47-year-old lawyer who was disbarred and imprisoned for her work defending the rights of those forcibly evicted in Beijing and crippled by beatings she suffered in prison, is now awaiting trial on charges of “obstructing a public official” (Article 277 of the Criminal Law), which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. During the incident in question, Ni was resisting the demolition of her own home when she was hit on the head with a brick and dragged to the ground.
* Hundreds of cases of harassment and restriction of foreign media from reporting freely, in violation of China’s Olympic pledge and temporary regulations in effect from January 2007 to October 2008. The Chinese government continues to severely restrict the foreign media’s access to Tibet since violence flared in Lhasa in mid-March. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for the security of all foreign journalists in China, also continues to refuse to investigate death threats made against foreign correspondents in the wake of a state media-driven vilification campaign of “western media bias” following the Lhasa violence.

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China: Most people concern about official corruption, Land seizures and house demolitions


Mon May 12, 2008, Reuters-

BEIJING (Reuters) – Less than a month after China put into effect a new law supposed to boost government transparency, most Chinese want to know one thing — how much officials get paid, a state newspaper said on Monday.

China passed regulations last year demanding the government disclose information about issues affecting the public interest in a bid to combat rampant corruption and discourage cover-ups enabled by often secretive decision-making processes.

But money appears to be on the top of many people’s minds, the China Youth Daily said, citing to a survey it jointly conducted with popular web portal sina.com.

“About 77.5 percent of people chose ‘assets of government officials’ as the information they most wanted to know about,” the newspaper said.

Land seizures, house demolitions and how the government reacts to “sudden public incidents” were also high on the list of information citizens wanted to know, the report added.

The law empowers ordinary Chinese citizens to demand information about government finances and economic plans, environmental regulations and many other polices.

But the ruling Communist Party does not want a free-for-all, and the rules offer a broad opt-out for officials, saying that information released “should not harm state security, economic security or social stability”.

Yet the Party is also keen to show it is tackling corruption, a problem so serious that officials have warned it could lead to their losing power.

In January, a group of conservative Chinese intellectuals made a rare public call for Western-style laws requiring officials, including President Hu Jintao, to declare their personal assets to curb official corruption.

- Original from Reuters: Chinese want to know how much officials paid: survey

China Farmer Rights Activist Yang Chunlin Sentenced to 5 Years for Against Beijing Olympics


By Fang Xiaocai, Epoch Times Staff, Mar 26, 2008-Yang Chunlin

Olympic human rights activist Yang Chunlin was sentenced to five years imprisonment Tuesday for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ by championing his cause with the slogan, “We don’t want the Olympics, we want human rights.”

(photo: At the trial, Yang was shrouded in black and surrounded by court police. /The Epoch Times)

While being taken from the courtroom, police shocked him with electric batons in front of his family. The 20-minute trial took place in the Jiamusi City Intermediate People’s Court in Heilongjiang Province.

Rejecting that the Chinese authorities’ judicial system is legitimate, Yang refused to sign the court document and insists he will not appeal his sentence.

Yang, a 53-year-old unemployed factory worker, is also is a freelance writer under the pen-name, “Wei Houren.” At the end of 2006, Yang advocated for farmers who lost their farmlands in Fujin City, Heilongjiang. He collected over 10,000 signatures on an open petition letter titled, “We want human rights, not the Olympics.” On July 6, Yang was arrested by the National Security Bureau in Jiamusi. On August 13, he was charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power.’

Yang’s attorney Li Fangping stated that his client received a sentence that was unduly harsh. He said Yang will now have ten days to decide whether to appeal.

Yang’s sister, Yang Chunping, explained that the court hearing, beginning at 3pm on the afternoon of March 24, lasted about 20 minutes in total.

“The court sentenced him to five years imprisonment and two years deprivation of political rights, on charges of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ because he posted articles online attacking the ruling regime,” said Chunping.

“When asked for his opinion of the verdict, [my brother] declared that the Chinese judicial system isn’t legal at all. So what kind of opinion could he have over the sentence? Because his behavior is in complete compliance with the country’s freedom of speech laws, his sentencing was not legal. Therefore, he refused to sign on the written judgment. He also expressed that he would not appeal, a decision he had already determined.”

Police Beat Yang with Electric Batons on Site

After the hearing, Chunping said her brother was quickly taken away from court. His family members wished to say a few words to him, urging him to reconsider an appeal. But court police prevented any contact with his family by shocking Yang with electric batons.

“Our family members only wanted to tell my brother to appeal, but the police didn’t allow him to speak. They used electric batons to shock him several times,” said Chunping. “My brother was hurt so terribly that he covered his abdomen with his hands. Upon witnessing this tragic scene, my family members all cried loudly in protest and officers quickly threw my brother into a police vehicle.”

“Although my brother didn’t sign the sentence in writing after the hearing, the court forced my sister to sign a copy for relatives. We don’t know whether this will have any legal effect.”

With no signature Yang’s sentence was still valid, said Attorney Li Fangping, as the court had an open hearing.

If Yang did choose to appeal, Li said he would still continue to represent him. But said the case is possibly over, as Yang had openly expressed that he would not appeal.

The court was contacted following the hearing, but no one answered the phone.

- Original report from The Epochtimes: Olympic Protester Sentenced to Five Years Imprisonment, Beaten

China Farmland Activist Yang Chunlin Goes On Trial For Saying “we want human rights, not the Olympics”


By Richard Spencer in Beijing, The Telegraph, UK, 21/02/2008-

A Chinese activist whose petition against illegal land seizures said “we want human rights, not the Olympics” has gone on trial for inciting subversion.

Yang Chunlin is one of many activists around China who claim that their farmland has been expropriated illegally for development. But the petition he organised and which gained 10,000 signatures in his home town near Jiamusi, in the north-east of the country, linked the abuse of his rights to the Beijing Games, a showpiece for the government.

While many overseas campaign groups have used the Olympics to press for change in government policy over issues from relations with Sudan to human rights, few Chinese have done the same. Many support the Games as a force for change, or think that attacking them would tarnish their cause.

Mr Yang’s case though has been taken up by lawyers and some civil rights groups, who argue that his words could not justify a charge such as subversion, usually employed against political dissidents. The lawyer who represented him, Li Fanping, said yesterday that Mr Yang had been taken to court in handcuffs and leg-irons on Tuesday. After Mr Li complained, the leg-irons were removed but he was chained to a chair.

The court held a five-hour hearing but will not deliver a verdict for two weeks. It is normal in sensitive cases for judges to seek political guidance.

Human Rights Watch claimed that he had been allowed out of his cell once a month in the eight months since his arrest, had been given only one day’s notice of his trial, and had no pencil and paper to prepare a defence.

“The Chinese government must recognise that the Games will only be truly successful if the perception is that China has kept its word about better respecting human rights,” said Sophie Richardson, a spokesman.

“Throwing out the case against Yang Chunlin would be a good place to start.”

Steven Spielberg, the Hollywood director, has come under increasing criticism in China’s state-controlled media for his decision to withdraw his support for the Olympics in protest at Chinese policy over Darfur.

An editorial in the China Youth Daily said: “This renowned film director is famous for his science fiction. But now it seems he lives in a world of science fiction and he can’t distinguish a dream from reality.”

- Original report from the Telegraph: Chinese Olympics protester is prosecuted

China 2007: The Year of The Peasants’ Revolt (cont’d)


John Garnaut, The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, January 5, 2008- (cont’d)

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Peasants in Yu’s village say they do not understand the concept of private ownership, let alone demand it. They are content to continue the system of collective ownership and individual farming rights. They are not closely linked with activists in other villages, let alone other provinces, and they are fiercely proud that China is hosting the Olympics.

Further, Yu’s son notes that his father is in effect illiterate.

But if Yu and his mysterious ghost writer had intended to unite peasants and make enough smoke to attract the country’s attention, then they have succeeded.

“In 10 years Yu has been our only hope,” says one village elder. “But now he’s in custody, we’re beginning to unite ourselves.”

Yu’s village is close to Fujin city, on China’s extreme north-east frontier. Russian Siberia lies just 60 kilometres away on the other side of two massive frozen rivers. Perhaps it is the cold, or the distance, but there can be few corners of the country where Beijing’s peasant-friendly rhetoric is so consistently and brazenly ignored.

Peasants have been the perennial losers in a 15-year, provincial cover-up of a project that started as a legitimate but misguided joint venture with a South Korean development entity and should have been aborted at the start – or at least when the joint venture partner walked away a decade ago.

Instead, each face-saving mistake has required an ever-more elaborate layer of tyranny to extort the money to pay back the debts of the previous mistake, and to prevent news getting out.

In 1995 Han Yin, then Fujin’s party secretary, told the then provincial governor, Tian Fengshan, that the agricultural project’s deep-seated woes had been caused by a map.

“It was an old map used before the 1980s,” said Han’s report, later obtained by affected peasants. “This caused a series of problems. The main problem is that most of the land is no longer wilderness.”

Tian, who did not act on Han’s report for two years, has since been jailed for corruption. One of his schemes was an auction of bureaucratic posts, where promotions were handed out to the highest bidder.

In 1997 the provincial government washed its hands of the project by transferring much of the appropriated land to the Fujin city government.

The Fujin officials acted like bandits when the party secretary sent his military police chief, Ma Chengxi, and his henchmen to enforce evictions and land transfers. One villager, An Fengzhen, still has an X-ray showing where a bullet lodged inside her skull.

Wang Xuejun, a villager who has since moved to Shandong, says Ma and Ge Qingxia, the city’s deputy party secretary, transferred vast tracts of farmland into their own names and started billing the peasants for rent.

“I have seen a copy of a rent receipt signed by Ge Qingxia,” says Wang. “It’s unimaginable for a government leader in China to have such a large amount of land in their own name.”

At Dongnangang, the land was carved in half and the best portion given to an unknown landlord. “They brought in peasants from Toulin town to farm the land,” says the village chief.

The land loss caused per capita incomes to drop by more than half, to about 2500 yuan.

Jon Unger, director of the Contemporary China Centre at the Australian National University, who has been studying land issues for decades, says the crudity and brazen nature of this land appropriation is extraordinary. “This is about as bad as I’ve seen.”

Through it all, Fujin officials have done everything they can to stop news getting out. One busload of villagers who tried to take their complaint to the petition office in Beijing never made it out of Fujin. They tried to explain that they were acting lawfully, but all they heard was one order: “fight”. Several were taken to hospital, most were left to tend to their own injuries in jail, says Wang Xuejun.

For the Fujin fiefdom to function requires that no information gets out, even at the cost of little coming in, and that the provincial government looks the other away. But Yu Changwu’s internet letter and some new high-level appointments might be breaking down that delicate bubble.

At the Fujin Public Security Bureau, where the Herald was being detained and interrogated, nobody was aware that reports of Yu’s letter were freely available on the internet. The Herald offered to direct officers to China’s year-old rules allowing foreign reporters to travel freely, only to be told sheepishly that there was no internet connection.

Later, the Herald was summoned to a luxury Fujin hotel room to meet a polite, stylish deputy mayor, who was part of the city’s new leadership team. “First, welcome to Fujin, the mayor hopes you enjoy your stay,” he said, over a cup of tea. “Two, next time you come to Fujin you must first report to us, so we can help you with your interviews.”

Questions about land and Yu Changwu were to go through “proper channels”. There are signs those channels may one day facilitate the flow of information, rather than only obstruct it. On Thursday the foreign affairs office in the next city, Jiamusi, said it was urgently investigating and would like to answer questions and ask some of its own.

Yu Gang, the son of Yu Changwu, is not sure how he is going to get back his land and his crazy-brave father, but he is sure it will happen. “My dream is to get my land back so I can work it, and to be reunited with my family,” he says.

with Sanghee Liu

- Original report from The Sydney Morning Herald

China 2007: The Year of The Peasants’ Revolt


John Garnaut, The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, January 5, 2008-

Officials acting like feudal landlords in north-east China may have met their match, writes John Garnaut.

It has been 15 years since the then Heilongjiang provincial governor decreed how his most ambitious agricultural project was to be evaluated: “The Touxing Project involves the credibility of the country and the reputation of Heilongjiang. It can only succeed, it cannot fail.”

In reality the project could never succeed. It was supposed to transform 100,000 hectares of swampy “wasteland” into farmland, but local peasants had mostly done that job already. Officials get around this fundamental problem by appropriating existing village farmland and rebadging it as “reclaimed” wasteland, while sometimes acting as feudal landlords on the side.

But recently there have been signs that this stubborn and quixotic agricultural enterprise in north-east China may finally have met its match: the equally stubborn, equally quixotic, accidental peasant leader Yu Changwu.

“Yu is a man of justice,” says the chief of Dongnangang, a village of 970 people.

“He asks for no money. Even when the village offered he rejected it,” says an old peasant, sitting on the village chief’s bed. “He’s persistent and he has never stopped fighting.”

Another adds “we all admire him”, prompting a ripple of nodding heads.

But Yu Changwu’s son, an unkempt, chain-smoking and charismatic lad named Yu Gang, is loafing silently on the floor. What does he think? “My father is frank and outspoken but he’s not a leader. He’s just an ordinary village man.”

What neighbours see as selfless determination looks more like self-righteousness, or pig-headed stupidity, inside the family home. A villager quietly notes that Yu Changwu’s diabetic wife, Yu Gang’s mother, died a preventable death last year.

“Of course I’m angry,” says Yu Gang. “If he hadn’t been spending all that money on fighting the Government he could have bought medicine for my mother.”

The villagers are all dressed in unwashed shades of black, brown and navy blue, without any hint of unnecessary consumption. But then a shiny red car pulls up and the driver steps out, all dressed in red.

“This is Yu’s number two,” says the village chief, as the new arrival takes her place in the room in the opposite corner to Yu Gang, who is soon to be her stepson.

Yu Changwu was first arrested after a shocking letter was posted on the internet in June, saying that local peasants wanted human rights rather than the cherished Beijing Olympics.

He was released, rearrested and released again, only to put his name to an even more revolutionary letter posted online on December 9. It called for private property rights, on top of human rights, to protect fellow villagers from predatory officials in the city of Fujin.

It read, in part: “They have actually become the landlords, and farmers have been forced to become serfs. We decided to change this structure of land ownership, and protect the land rights of farmers through family ownership or individual ownership.”

Two days later, the Fujin city police again hauled Yu away. He has not been seen since. But he had already set in train a resistance movement that will be hard to stop.

Anxious non-government lawyers in Beijing warned that Yu had directly challenged China’s constitutional prohibition against private ownership of rural land. Excited overseas China watchers, on the other hand, thought they were witnessing early cracks in the foundations of Communist China.

“If the movement indeed takes off, it will be a true, bottom-up land revolution,” wrote Professor Fei-Ling Wang, of Georgia Institute of Technology.

The reality is more prosaic. Yu’s Jeffersonian letter was purportedly written on behalf of 40,000 peasants but it is not a faithful account of their actions or intentions. (to be cont’d)

- Original report from The Sydney Morning Herald

Double Challenge to Communist Rule in China


By Mure Dickie and Jamil Anderlini in Beijing, The Financial Times, December 26 2007-

In two highly unusual public challenges to core tenets of Communist rule in China, an academic has announced the launch of a democratic opposition party and farmers in four provinces have claimed ownership of land seized by local authorities.

Former Nanjing university professor Guo Quan on Wednesday claimed his “New Democracy party” enjoyed widespread backing for its goal of ending Communist “one-party dictatorship” and introducing multi-party elections. “We must join the global trend,” Mr Guo said. “China must move toward a democratic system.”

Separately, farmers in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Shaanxi, Jiangsu and the city of Tianjin have announced on the internet that they have reclaimed collective land from the government and redistributed it.

Collective land ownership is one of the foundations of the Communist state. But one of the main sources of unrest in China in recent years has been the seizure of land that is then sold to developers who often work with officials to make huge profits.

Authorities have already detained at least eight of the activists behind the internet statements, people familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

China routinely detains or jails people whom officials judge to pose a threat to Communist party rule and has dealt harshly with past attempts to set up opposition groups.

In 1998 authorities detained dozens of people involved in setting up the “China Democracy party”. Some of its main organisers were sentenced to more than 10 years in jail.

This month’s land claims break new ground by appearing to be co-ordinated across widely separated regions of the country and by being based on presumed individual property rights.

On December 16, police in the northern province of Shaanxi detained Zhang Sanmin, Cheng Sizhong and Xi Xinji on suspicion of incitement to overthrow the state. The detentions came four days after they posted an open letter on the internet claiming to have asserted rights over 10,000 hectares of land in the name of 70,000 farmers.

That action came less than a week after the detention of Yu Changwu, leader of a group in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang that claimed to represent 40,000 peasants in the reclamation of 100,000 ha of land.

In the eastern province of Jiangsu, two young couples were under effective house arrest after joining a group that asserted ownership of land confiscated by local officials to build hotels, discos and restaurants.

A fourth group in the northern port of Tianjin staked a claim on behalf of more than 8,000 people for 60 ha taken by officials for development.

The announcement of the new party and the land claims follows the release last month by a provincial government adviser, Wang Zhaojun, of a sweeping open letter indicting the nation’s entire political system.

- Original report from The Financial Times: Double challenge to Beijing orthodoxy