Authorities' Land Seizure Triggers Police-Villager Confrontation in South China

By Lu Jianhui, Central News Agency
March 6, 2008 12:00 am Last Updated: March 6, 2008 12:00 am

HONG KONG—A large-scale confrontation between police and villagers broke out on March 2 in Hainan Province, located off the southern coast of China. The confrontation was a result of local authorities' illegal land seizure and unfair compensation.

The incident was triggered by the authorities' attempt to forcefully evict peasants from lands confiscated by the government two years ago and to demolish their houses. A large number of peasants who were dissatisfied with the terms of land compensation refused to move out, and confronted with hundreds of police who were sent to demolish the buildings by force.

According to a report by Hong Kong Oriental Daily, at about 9:00 p.m. more than 1,000 peasants in Fengling Village of Wanning City were confronted with over 700 public security officers and armed police. Alongside them were several hundred demolition workers and government officials who were appointed to demolish the peasants' homes without mercy. During the confrontation the armed policeman linked arms to form a barrier.

More than 10 villagers attempted to prevent workers from demolishing buildings and thus fought against the armed police. One high-school student with the surname Li were hospitalized after his leg was broken in the confrontation, and several women fainted. The armed police and workers left at 5:00 p.m. on March 3. However, the villagers expect the government will continue to demolish their buildings despite their desperate protest. Villagers said they would not give up their homes.

The report said the land seizure happened in September 2005 after Wanning City authorities signed an agreement with Zhongxin Taifu, a listed company in Hong Kong, and authorizes the latter to invest 10 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) within 10 years in Shenzou Peninsula to develop commercial projects that involve tourism, entertainment, education, scientific research, modern services and luxury residential centers.

To implement the projects, villagers said the Wanning authorities confiscated 2306 acres farmland from the 12 villages on the Peninsula with neither approval of the 4,000 peasants in the area nor permission from higher authorities. Villagers were also forced to sign on a blank sheet of paper on which the authorities later filled in statements agreeing to accept the land compensation. In this way the authorities forged an agreement and made the land seizure look “legal” on paper.

Some villagers noted that the authorities compensated the peasants for each mu (667 square meters) of land at 6,500 to 29,000 yuan ($914 to 4080) but sold the land at two million yuan ($281,401) per mu. The profit margin was too huge for the villagers to accept.

After half a month of persuasion, at present half of the 800 involved families have given in and agreed to move to resettlements while the remaining half refused to relocate and vowed to protect their homes.

To sue the illegal land seizures, villages have been appealing to Wanning City and the provincial government for help over the last two years. Last November they sent more than 10 delegates to visit the Chinese State Bureau for Letters and Calls, a central government agency that deals with complaints on officials. So far they have not received any response.