Farmers Riot in Xinjiang Over Cotton Prices
Xinjiang's cotton farmers on September 23 clashed with police and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps over a cotton price cap, leaving 40 injured and 25 detained.
According to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, on the night of September 22, police invaded more than 100 cotton farmers' homes in search of hidden cotton.
On September 23, thousands of farmers protested at the police station, broke the windows and overturned a police car. Forty people were injured by beating, half of which were women and the elderly. Twenty-five were detained. The protest continued until October 5.
An elderly farmer indicated that local farmers were shocked by the search conducted by police from the Suxingtan Police Station. One farmer was caught and locked up at the police station for hiding cotton. Consequently, nearly a thousand of farmers gathered at the police station to request release of the detainee. The conflict continued past midnight. The riot squad from the regional capital, Urumqi, arrived later. As a result, some farmers were injured; others were captured, and released later.
When the reporters phoned the Suxingtan Police Station, a male police officer on duty refused to comment on the incident, and suggested that it's a rumor.
Taken Advantage of
The farming community is under the authority of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps' paramilitary guards. The Corps has 15,000 farmers and 25 million mu of arable land, mainly for cotton. Cotton farmers pay a contract fee to grow the cotton, but are not allowed to pick or sell the cotton freely.
According to a farmer surnamed Lee, he has paid his entire contract fee. However, he cannot sell the cotton or keep the cotton. The official purchase price was set at a little more than four yuan per pound, whereas the market price was more than six yuan per pound. Sometimes, he doesn't even get paid.
Since this September, some farmers had started picking and trafficking in cotton because the cost to grow the cotton is higher than the fixed purchase price.
Many farmers indicated they plan to appeal in Beijing. The farmers were furious over the beating by the police.
In 1954, the People's Liberation Army transformed into Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps paramilitary units to control and colonize Xinjiang. It consists of 14 divisions, 185 farms, and 25 million people accounting for 14 percent of the population in Xinjiang.
These farmers are not typical farmers. They work in a unit of the Corps, which requires them to pay a fee to grow the cotton and then sell it to the Corps at a stipulated price. The Corps organizes the picking of the cotton and sale into the market to improve its profits.
Since September, these farmers have been picking the cotton and looking to bypass the Corps and obtain a better price, which is prohibited.