Last Thursday, tens of thousands of people in Hanyuan County, Sichuan Province protested the government’s forced relocation: relocation made possible by tearing down their homes under orders issued by corrupt officials. Thousands lined the Pubugou Power Station on Dadu River to stop operation there.
In response, police injured several dozen people and beat one man to death.
In the areas surrounding Hanyuan County, police clashed with farmers and local students. After the police contained the situation, all lines of communication, including Internet, were cut off and traffic was tightly controlled.
Violent relocation causes the conflict
According to reports from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the origin of the conflict was the Hanyuan’s county government’s forced relocation of a hundred thousand residents to build Pubugou Power Station, a hydroelectric power plant.
According to sources, local government officials and developers collaborated by reducing the compensation of property. They did so by downgrading its productive fertile farm land - claiming that it was arid, dry land near the mountains - and paying out type-five compensation that was in place 14 years ago. Those who refused to move in advance were arrested by police and public security guards.
Farmers had believed that they could still retain their fertile farmland. However, they were forced to give up the land and move to land on the hillside where only corn could be grown. Farmers were only compensated half the value of their home while corrupted officials at different levels of the government filled their pockets with the other half.
Tens of thousands of farmers prevent the dam from operating
Several months ago, the farmers appealed to government officials in Hanyuan County by collecting petitions but received no response. In response to this, within several days of the dam starting operation, fifty to sixty thousand farmers living by the Dadu River broke through the armed police guarding the station and stopped operation of the dam.
The Apple Daily reported on October 31st that Li, a farmer living in Qingfu Town, Hanyuan County, said, “50,000 to 60,000 villagers in towns such as Qingfu Town, Dashu Town, Shunhe Town, who are affected by the project at Pubugou Power Station, protested outside the station Wednesday night. Villagers held banners such as “Overthrow corrupt officials!” Hoping to delay the operation of the dam, protesters braved the cold weather for two nights as temperatures dropped to 35 degrees.
“At that time, a lot of armed police and public security guards arrived. A man started to argue with police after they assaulted a seventy year-old woman. He was struck with a brick by the police which caused his death,” said Li.
One hundred thousand people attack the administration building
On the following two days, October 28 and 29th, nearly 100,000 farmers and students marched to the county administration building and damaged the government facility, causing the government offices to shut down. Authorities urgently mobilized over 10,000 armed police to Hanyuan County. In the conflict that ensued, at least seven armed police were injured and were all sent to Ganluo County hospital. This was because it was believed that the safety of the police officers would be compromised if they were sent to the Hanyuan county hospital near the demonstration site.
Problems still remain in Hanyuan County. Many schools and stores remain shut down. Government officials warned that the instigators of the protest would be seriously punished for stopping the operation of the national dam project.
It is believed that Pubugou Power Station, located in Hanyuan County, is the largest power station on the Dadu River. The State Council officially authorized the dam’s project on December 25, 2002. It is projected that when the dam is completed, the entire Hanyuan County and many nearby towns - a total of 44,000 mu (7,216 acres) - will be submerged. More than 90,000 people have already had to relocate.