Officials accused of forcing farmers to hand over land
Nearly 1,000 government officials and workers have been sent to a village in Huizhou , Guangdong, to force local farmers to hand over their land for a property development project, villagers said yesterday.
Villagers of Shixia village in Huidong county accused the local authorities of short-changing them and pocketing part of the money paid for the land. They are unhappy because they believe their farmland has been sold at below market price.
Villager Huang Shuhua said hundreds of armed government officials and workers had surrounded the village since last Saturday to intimidate the villagers into surrendering more than 33 hectares of their land near the seashore.
'They [officials and workers] stopped all residents from going out and only allowed us to come in,' Mr Huang said. 'Even children were not permitted to leave for school.' He said the officials and workers wanted to wear down their resistance and clear the way for the building of a high fence around the seafront land. The property has been earmarked by a mainland developer as the site for a luxury hotel development billed as 'China's Hawaii'.
Another villager said developers had allegedly offered more than 1 million yuan per hectare to the county government for the land, but county officials had given the residents only 135,000 yuan per hectare.
'According to the contract regulations, the government could only take our land if 80 per cent of the people in our village and the village head agreed to sell,' said the villager, who gave only his surname, Zhou. 'But so far 24 of the 53 families in our village have refused to sign the contract - including our village head. What they are doing is clearly illegal.'
'China's Hawaii' is a tourism project designed by the Huizhou party committee and municipal government in 2004. It would affect 23 villages in Huidong county, a county government spokesman said, adding that 22 villages had supported the project.
'Only Shixia village has refused to co-operate,' the spokesman said. 'We sent so many people [there] because we need to lobby every family ... I can tell you that there was no riot in the village.'