One Thousand Policemen Dispatched Against Villagers

By Ding Xiao, Radio Free Asia
October 29, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: October 29, 2007 12:00 am

For more than a month, residents at Huangyong Village, Beijiao Township, located in China's Guangdong Province, continually surrounded the village committee building—an office that handles local village affairs. Villagers were there demanding that their land property rights and land profits be returned to their profit sharing collective. On October 26, more than a thousand policemen were unleashed on the villagers. They arrested four leaders, and injured three elderly protesters. On the evening of October 27, several hundred villagers appealed to the Beijiao township government for the release of their fellow villagers.

Huangyong villagers say that police accused them of an illegal gathering organized to cause trouble. An army of officers attacked the three dozen villagers at the village committee building. “More than 70 police cars came, and there were more than 1000 policemen with riot gear. There were only about 30 villagers,” recounted one villager. “Three elderly villagers got beaten with electric batons. The police arrested four villagers, all very young and strong. The villagers were all extremely peaceful.”

Radio Free Asia contacted the local Lingang police station regarding the incident, but staff there claimed they knew nothing about it.

The villagers say they didn't see their appeal as a serious issue. They were at the village committee office on business that greatly affected the needs of their community. Villagers asked that the secretary of the village Party committee explain the issues of compulsory land acquisitions 1 and the payment for land acquisition compensation and requested that he sign an agreement to recognize the village's profit sharing collective as the owner of the land and its compensation. They described the attack from local police as an unexpected surprise.

Zhong Dahao, 63-year-old female villager is currently hospitalized with head trauma after being beaten by police. “Right now [my head] still hurts,” she said. “It was the police who did it. At the time I was beside the secretary, and then several policemen grabbed my neck, hands and feet and forced me into the police car. Afterwards they hit my head with an electric baton. I lost consciousness and didn't know what happened next. I didn't do anything wrong. I just wanted to get my land back. Right now I really don't have food to eat.”

On the evening of October 26, hundreds of villagers went to the Beijiao township government office to appeal for the release of their fellow villagers, after one of the four was released and they were told on October 25 that the other three—another male and two females—were to be detained for 10 days.

“Right now, we don't know why they are detaining them,” said another villager. “They detain whoever they want, and those are the words from the officials' mouths. Last night and today [October 27] there were hundreds of villagers protesting at the township government. There were as many as 800 people, including some from other villages. It's because there are land issues everywhere.”

According to insiders, more than 80 acres of land owned by Huangyong Village has been acquired to factories, with some acquisitions or leases lasting for as long as 36 years. However, less than 20 percent of the acquisition compensation has trickled down to the villagers. Villagers say that the rest of the money was embezzled by the village committee. From mid September, 1500 villagers jointly requested that the village committee explain this and return all land property rights to the village's profit sharing collective. They have started to surround the committee building with dozens or even hundreds of villagers every day and will stay out until their demands are met.

The land requisition situation in Guandong's Shunde District, under which the Beijiao Township is located, has reached serious levels. Many villages have started villager collective union to defend their land rights. Since the Chinese Communist Party's 17th Congress, there has been many police attack on rights defense activities. Last week, about 10 people were arrested from the Rongui Township in Shunde District.

Note: [1] The high rate of urbanisation has led to great demand for land for infrastructure and property developments. In order to obtain more land to meet demand, the Chinese authorities have implemented various measures, including compulsory land acquisitions.

At present, land in urban and rural areas can be compulsorily acquired for construction purposes. Under the land acquisition law in China, compensation is given to the dispossessed owners and occupiers. At present, however, the law does not address the issue of just compensation to the affected people, and has caused great discontent.