Tens of Thousands in Standoff with Police in Eastern China
Yet another large-scale violent clash has broken out between angry villagers and police over land grabs by government officials in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province, this time involving tens of thousands of protesters. Local media made no mention of the incident.
During the five-day standoff between July 14 and July 18, several thousand villagers took over the government building while the government called in riot police. At one point the crowd of angry protesters grew to as many as twenty to thirty thousand.
The incident took place in Gaoxin District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province. It began when thousands of local villagers from Tong’an Township of Gaoxin District gathered at the township government building. They came to express their indignation over the local government’s illegal takeover of their farmland. Tens of thousands of mu (1 mu = 0.16 acre) had been illegally expropriated during the past seven years without fair compensation to the villagers.
When the villagers found officials unresponsive, they became angry and took over the government building, breaking some equipment and bringing government business to a halt as officials fled.
On the morning of July 16 the government called in approximately 500 riot police to break up the protest. While most villagers had gone home to rest, riot police started attacking the remaining protesters.
According to local residents, the riot police beat up the several hundred remaining villagers in order to drive them away. Enraged villagers retaliated with bricks and beer bottles. Dozens of villagers were injured and taken to hospital. Several dozen more were arrested. The confrontation lasted about half an hour.
The police violence caused even greater anger among the villagers. After sunrise on July 17, local residents and relatives of those arrested, proceeded to blockade National Highway 312 in Gaoxin district to continue their protest.
Many more local residents rushed to the blocked highway during the day. According to local residents, villagers from surrounding communities also came to support the protest, and at one time there were as many as twenty to thirty thousand.
Witnesses at the scene told The Epoch Times that in 2003 under the guise of constructing new high-tech industrial parks, the local government started to forcefully take away land from farmers. The farmers never received the compensation promised by the government, and the tens of thousands of mu of farmland had lain deserted for the past six plus years. Recently the local government started to auction off the land at prices ten or more times the purchase price. The government’s unjust compensation caused great resentment among local residents.
The incident has alarmed the city government of Suzhou. The communist party secretary of Suzhou rushed to the area on July 18 and held a meeting with local officials to discuss countermeasures. The government also dispatched more police from the surrounding cities of Wuxi and Zhangjiagang. There were several thousand police.
No additional information of further police crackdowns was available at the time of this article submission.
During these several days of conflict, no local media reported the incident. Internet blog postings by eyewitnesses were quickly deleted by the regime. Local residents expressed hope that more media would come to the scene to experience the severity of the situation.
Forced land expropriation, forced relocation, government corruption and police brutality are commonplace in China and have become a source of anger and unrest in many areas. The Epoch Times and other media have recently reported on several large-scale protests in different areas of the country.
On July 5, ten thousand villagers in China’s southeastern Jiangxi Province staged a protest against police brutality, relocation and corrupt local officials. The relocation of villagers was ordered by local authorities because villagers had expressed concern over health issues arising from pollution by a local mining company. The enraged citizens, armed with bricks and stones, smashed town hall windows and turned over police cars in response to police beating two women petitioners into a coma.
On June 11, ten thousand citizens had a standoff with police in Maanshan City, Anhui Province over a student being assaulted by a local official. Military police and riot police were dispatched to break through the crowd with batons, shields and tear gas. Many people were injured. Local media did not report on the massive protest.
The use of force and media control are two of the means by which the Chinese communist regime attempts to maintain social stability.
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