Sharp Rise in Group Protests in China

October 16, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: October 16, 2006 12:00 am

In recent years, group protests in China have risen at a rate of at least 17% a year in response to land expropriation disputes, election embezzlement, state-owned enterprise reforms, environmental pollution, and denial of justice. Official records for 2005 put the number of protests involving more than 15 people at 87,000—an average of 241 group protests a day.

Official Chinese websites state that group protests increased five-fold from 10,000 to 60,000 between 1994 and 2003. The number of people who attend group protests has also increased by 12 percent yearly, from 730,000 in 1994 to 3,070,000 in 2003. Protests with over 100 people increased four-fold from 1400 to 7000.

Authorities see the group protests as a threat to social stability. The number and size of the protest is increasing in response to the public's discontent over many issues, and the protestors' behavior is becoming increasingly more violent, in response to the severity of the authorities' crackdown. To cite one example in Zhonghe town, Hainan province, thousands of villagers surrounded the police station for three days after a young man died as a result of violent police abuse. The villagers also gathered in front of the government town hall to petition the government.

Another example occurred in early October. About 200 villagers from Longgang, Shenzhen city, protested outside the local police station, angry with the police for injuring and secretly detaining one of the villagers who was involved in the process of house demolition and relocation.

Hong Kong media reported that a local company in Shenzhen, Huawei Group, wanted to extend its buildings and local government officials started to levy lands from villagers on behalf of the company. However, the local government officials and villagers could not reach an agreement. On October 2, the related departments in Longgang area sent a group of people into the village to dismantle around a hundred buildings under construction. The villagers resisted and one was injured during the protest. The dismantling was forced to stop.

On the morning of October 9, the injured villager was taken away by police officers. The other villagers then gathered at the police station to petition his release.