The forced appropriation of farmers' land by the municipal authorities of Shanwei City, Guangdong Province has incited a mass protest by the residents. The land appropriation was conducted in order to build a power plant. The local authorities suppressed the protest using thousands of armed police who reportedly shot the protesters using submachine guns and tanks. Dozens are believed to have died. This latest attack on its own people by the Chinese government reminds the West of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and has drawn serious attention globally.
On December 10, the official state media finally broke the silence and confessed that Shanwei villagers were shot at by police and that the official who ordered fire was arrested.
CCP Media Conceals the True Casualty Toll
Four days after the incident on December 6, the Chinese official media reported the incident, but admitted to only three villagers being shot dead. This is at odds with reports from local villagers who said that dozens had died in the shooting.
CCP mouthpiece, Xinghua News Agency, quoted a Shanwei municipal official who described the nature of the incident as "a serious illegal event, incited by a few persons, of breaking, smashing, burning and even attacking the police who are enforcing the law at the scene." The agency also claimed that as many as 500 people had gathered and that the situation was totally out of control after nightfall.
Xinhua said that the villagers attacked the armed police using explosives, which prompted the police to open fire. The police "accidentally" shot three people dead and injured eight while firing their guns as a warning.
The Xinghua Net reported that, "Under the particularly urgent circumstances at the time, the on-the-spot official mishandled the situation and accidentally caused death and injury. The procuratorial agency of Shanwei City has already arrested the related official on criminal charges according to the law as it relates to this incident."
Reports as to the actual death toll vary. Voice of America (VOA) reported that local villagers said more than 20 residents were shot dead by the police and more than 50 people were missing. Agence France Presse (AFP), quoting villagers, said that approximately 30 people had died. The Epoch Times and some Hong Kong media reported that some villagers said at least 70 had died and 50 people were missing.
According to a Sound of Hope Radio report, the government not only arranged for tanks to occupy the village, but also ordered that machine guns be set up ready to strafe villagers on the street at anytime. It seems the best estimate of the death toll so far stands at 70. Most of the dead were young people in their twenties.
The Police Shot an Injured Villager When He Begged for His Life
According to Hong Kong media reports, the cause of the conflict is over land compensation. In order to build a power plant, the Shanwei municipal authorities appropriated a large section of farmers' land in Dongzhou Town and also forbade villagers from catching or raising fish in a nearby lake. The government officials also appropriated the money intended to compensate the villagers. Since last October, there have been continuous demonstrations outside the construction site of the power plant. The villagers also appealed to related government agencies since May 2005, hoping to resolve this issue. However, they did not see any progress in their claims. Since September 21, 2005 the villagers escalated their protest and began blocking the roads on which the power plant's vehicles made their way to the plant.
On December 6, authorities in Shanwei City sent about 1,000 military and riot police to the power plant and detained some representatives of the villagers, which then led to a demonstration by thousands of villagers. People from nearby villages also came to show their support. The military police fired tear gas at them. Then the police shot and killed some of the villagers.
According to a report from the Apple Daily on December 10, Chen, a villager who escaped from the tragedy said, "It was so brutal. One villager was shot in the leg. He kneeled down to beg for his life. But they dragged him over to a pile of grass and shot him twice…"
According to the villagers, the military police reported that they did not open fire. But the villagers had collected many cartridge cases imprinted with the numbers "91" and "61". These cartridges are believed to be from submachine guns.
After Massacre Terror Continues in Chinese Village