Riot police end housing estate protest

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 April, 2006, 12:00am

Residents question how developer had hundreds of officers mobilised in row over fence

A Shenzhen property developer yesterday mobilised hundreds of riot police to disperse housing estate residents protesting over a fence built round their properties.

Thousands of residents of Guangfaxincun, in Lowu district, found themselves walled-in by the developer after turning down its approach to buy their land.

The residents accused the local authorities of teaming up with the Shenzhen Property Development Company to force them out after the developer built a fence around the estate, leaving 30,000 residents with only a narrow access gateway.

About 100 residents tried to stop construction of the fence yesterday morning before the developer called in riot police to disperse the crowd. One resident was reported to have been injured during the clash and was arrested.

Some residents vowed to demolish the fence once the riot police left.

'We will pull it down. They can rebuild, but we will pull it down again. I don't believe they can keep [this] up,' said one resident. Riot police guarded the road to prevent residents from getting near the fence, which the developer said was needed for a nearby residential complex that it owns.

'We find the fence necessary to improve the security of our property. It has been approved by the government and we ask [Guangfaxincun] residents to co-operate,' said a note posted by the developer.

But residents said the fence blocked all major roads to their estate. They also questioned how the developer had been able to mobilise riot police to help solve a private dispute.

'They only left us with one gateway, which is so narrow that a fire engine would find it difficult to get in. It is far away from the main road. Our people have to walk a long way to get to the outside,' said another resident.

He said the development company had approached them about two years ago and offered to buy some of their land, but residents rejected the offer. They now believe the developer is trying to use the bullying tactics to force them out.

Another resident said: 'I really wonder why there are so many armed police helping the developer. We didn't break any law and we didn't use violence against anyone. Suddenly it's as though we are under house arrest. I feel we have been intimidated.'

The resident said the developer had first tried to build the fence last year, but they had successfully stopped the construction work going ahead.

'We thought this was a private dispute between two estates,' said one woman. 'I think this is a case of local authorities abusing police powers to help their friends.'

Shenzhen is facing an acute land shortage, particularly in Lowu and Futian districts, with property prices rocketing and developers scrambling for land. Land disputes have become a major cause of social unrest and have led to several large-scale protests in the Pearl River Delta.