Authorities round up protesters in Zhejiang

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 December, 2003, 12:00am

One week after a clash over land seizures, police swoop on village house

Authorities in Zhejiang have started rounding up villagers who took part in a violent protest over a land dispute which resulted in several injuries.

Residents of Xiaxiaoxi village in Jinyun county said that early on Friday, about 30 police swooped on the house of a family who had been advising villagers on matters related to what they said was the illegal seizure of their farmland by officials.

Officers armed with iron clubs reportedly broke down the door and raided the house before they awoke and beat up the father and two sons. Police detained all three but the sons were released after several hours of questioning.

Family members said police accused the father of disturbing public security and of being the mastermind behind a clash between police and villagers on November 23, an accusation that they denied. Last night, the father was still being detained and family members said they had not been allowed to visit him. Neither police nor government officials were available for comment over the weekend.

What began as a one-man protest over officials' seizures of farmland turned into a mass rally of nearly 1,000 villagers at the Xinbi industrial park, shocking local authorities and police.

Another of the family's sons, who went to Beijing to lodge a complaint over the land dispute, said he was distressed to hear about recent events at home. He is also accused of masterminding the fight and is wanted by police.

Fearing for the safety of his father, he said he would probably have no choice but to return home and surrender himself.

But he insisted they were only trying to inform villagers of their legal rights. He had earlier posted copies of a State Council directive issued two weeks ago, which warned local governments against the illegal use of land.

'This is so unfair to us ordinary people. I keep trying to lodge complaints [with higher authorities] because I hope this will draw their attention to our situation,' he said, breaking down in tears.

Up to last night, four people had been detained in relation to the clash between police and the Jinyun county residents, according to local residents.

A local official sympathetic to the residents' plight said police were likely to round up more people in the coming week. He said villagers were now 'filled with fear' and several involved in the protest have already left the village to avoid being arrested.

The original protest turned violent when police tried to rescue a township chief, who was surrounded by angry villagers. Authorities later said two police officers were also kidnapped by villagers for a few hours - an act that had likely both embarrassed and annoyed police authorities.