Rural unrest sets off alarm

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 October, 1998, 12:00am

There were more than 10,000 'unruly incidents' by farmers last year, say sources close to the security establishment.


The incidents, mostly at village level, ranged from demonstrations and petitions to efforts to surround or damage government offices. There were at least 300 attempts to break into banks and post offices.


Sources said that while the disturbances did not go beyond county level, the Beijing leadership was alarmed enough to map out elaborate policies to pacify the peasantry. The measures, first spelled out after the summer floods, were affirmed at the just-ended third plenum of the Central Committee.


An agriculture cadre in Beijing said rural administrations at all levels would re-appraise the level of tax and levies on farmers. The aim of the review, which is being co-ordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture, is to lessen the burden on rural households.


At the plenum, a politburo member cited the fact that one village in a central province was slapped with close to 150 taxes and other levies.


Concurrently, an anti-corruption drive more extensive than that in the cities would be waged in the countryside.


The politburo member reiterated that unless graft was eradicated, 'the survival of the party would be called into question'.


'We would rather err on the side of severity' in cracking down on corrupt rural officials, he said.


The floods had also exposed several hundred cases of local officials pocketing government investments in irrigation or at least diverting the funds for other purposes.


Even before the plenum, the politburo had decided to boost spending on infrastructural and technological aid to farmers.


It was decided that central Government would bear the bulk of the expenditure.


Ways and means would be found to encourage farmers to invest more in their own land.


 

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