Fishermen Struggle For Livelihood

September 30, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: September 30, 2006 12:00 am

Recently, Huguang village, East Lake Management District, Wuhan City, China started directly taking over the management of all resources within East Lake District due to the city government's reformation of the scenic East Lake District.

This reformation has resulted in a loss of benefits for over one thousand villagers. Without any compensation or settlement, the fishermen are fighting to get back their rights to the lake. Liu Feiyue, the editor of “Democracy and Observation”, thinks the conflict between the two sides could potentially elevate into much higher levels.

There are over one thousand villagers in Huguang village. On June 1st, Wuhan city government issued the “No. 10 document” to draft lands, involving lakes, 600-mu (100 acres) fish farms, and 300-mu (50 acres) farm lands. Only workers from one government-owned fish farm received compensation and settlement. Over one thousand villagers in Huguang village didn't receive any compensation or settlement.

The Huguang villagers say they also have rights to use the resources. In order to get justice, on September 11, the villagers hung a total of 18 banners across the road demanding “Return My Land, Return My Lake, Return My Living Right”, etc. Over 150 people went to the county government to appeal.

According to Liu Feiyue, on September 14, the government sent dozens of people to forcefully take down all the banners.

They also threatened the rights-protection representative Mr. Li. A vice-district-governor of East Lake Management District ordered Mr. Li to take down the banners; saying, “Old Mr. Li, the situation now is very disadvantageous for you.” Li said without much choice, “I am already over 70 years old. If you kill me or put me in jail, I have to accept it. ”

One fisherman said, “All the banners on the big roads have been taken down. Some still remain on the small roads. If the problem does not get resolved, we will also prepare to appeal in Beijing.”

This reporter called the Management Committee of East Lake Ecologic and Tourist Scenery District. One worker said, “All the resources over East Lake have been taken over. I am not clear about other details.”

The villagers in Huguang have lived beside the East Lake for generations, living partially by farming and partially by fishing. In the 50s, when the “Communism Wind” swept over China, without any legal procedures, the Peace Commune took over all the lakes, fish farms, farm lands, power stations, big houses, and fishing boats: converting those resources originally managed by the villagers to Party property, and utilizing them without any compensation. After the lake and land was forcefully occupied, villagers from Huguang started a movement in 1972 to get back their resources. To date, more than 30 years later, the local government still has not compensated the villagers.

In recent years, the village enterprises have been bankrupted one after another. The resources of Huguang are very limited. The villagers live very difficult lives. Starting last February, villagers initiated the rights-protection movement to get back their resources. But as villagers appealed to one level after another, they didn't receive any support from the local government.

Li Feiyue pointed out that when a large number of everyday people have conflicts with the government about benefits, the laws and rules of the CCP do not truly protect everyday people's rights. The existing laws and rules are not on the side of the weak, instead they are on the side of power.