A local aluminum company used violence to try to suppress a protest inspired by road construction that had damaged a nearby village, pollution, and local officials’ efforts to take away the villagers’ land and give it to the company. Violence was met by violence, and three individuals employed by the company are reported to have died.
Villagers in Jingxi County of Guangxi Province in southern China initially sought through a large-scale protest on July 11 to halt the construction of a road by Guangxi Xinfah Aluminum, a major local enterprise, and to use the opportunity to complain to members of the aluminum company about its pollution.
Protesters had carried a banner reading, “Give me back my home, give me back my river.”
According to a local resident, the aluminum company has caused serious damage to the local environment that has left villagers with no drinking water or water for irrigation for a long time.
Xinfah Aluminum reacted to the protest by bringing 300 workers, who used water hoses and wooden sticks to attack the villagers. According to the villagers, several villagers were injured by the workers’ attack.
The villagers fought back by surrounding Xinfah Aluminum and attacking with rocks and homemade bombs.
According to internet postings, three Xinfah Aluminum migrant workers from Shandong Province were dead, a dozen were wounded, and some machines were damaged.
A villager, Huang An, explained how the incident escalated. “The manufacturer intended to build a new road; we did not allow them to proceed. They sent people to beat us. They hit whoever they saw. We fought back by calling for more people. In a little while, the armed police arrived and stopped us from hitting, but allowed them [the aluminum workers] to hit us. We were infuriated. Villagers from nearby villages also came to assist us,” he said.
The conflict led thousands of villagers to protest and petition the county government. Large numbers of armed police interrupted their demonstration and fired guns in the air to threaten the participants.
By July 13, more than 10,000 villagers were estimated by villagers to have participated in the demonstration.
Underlying the villagers’ demonstration against the aluminum company is their anger over the forced expropriation of their land by the local officials.
Mr. Huang said, “The manufacturer wanted to buy the land and the villagers disagreed. The price was too low. They only offered to pay 10,000 yuan for one mu [approximately US$1,476 per 797 sq. yd.].”
“The government said that it’s already promised and the land is now theirs. We have to sell the land regardless,” Mr. Huang said.
The villagers suspect the officials took the side of the manufacturer because of bribery.
Villagers believe a flood caused by the road construction is being used by the local officials as a way to seize their land.
Mr. Huang said that explosives used by the aluminum manufacturer during road construction in March blocked underground river channels. The village upstream was half-flooded, and villagers had no choice but to camp in the unaffected area. Downstream the river was dried out.
Local officials have ignored the plight of the flooded villagers and the villagers believe the officials intend to acquire their land without going through proper procedures. By not responding to the flood, the officials can ask the villagers to move away from the affected area. The officials are thus able to acquire the land without paying the owners.
Read the original Chinese article.