Riot village cash row 'badly handled'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 April, 1994, 12:00am

A COMMUNIST Party cell in a Guangdong village which has been the scene of rioting and protests has admitted it handled the row over compensation badly.

Hong Kong reporters were detained for about three hours in the village at the weekend when tear-gas was fired to break up a protest.

However, members of the cell denied accusations that officials were pocketing the compensation. They said they were investigating a demonstration over the weekend in which tear-gas was used against 3,000 participants.

Mr Shan, a cadre from the party cell in Gangbei village, Shitan town, Zengcheng city, in southern Guangdong, said: ''The protest was sparked by rumours intentionally created by some people. We believe there are some underground organisations behind the action.'' The protest started on Saturday night when Gangbei villagers protested over compensation levels for their farmland, which is being taken for urban development. It was the third demonstration in two weeks against corruption in various villages in southernGuangdong.

The Gangbei villagers said there should be 75 million yuan (HK$66.6 million) compensation for what they claim was 2,500 hectares of farmland taken by the Government in the 1980s. None has been paid and there are allegations that the cash has ended up in other people's pockets.

Mr Shan denied that 2,500 hectares had been taken. He said only 300 hectares was acquired in 1989 and that four million yuan was an appropriate level of compensation.

He added that the four million yuan was not meant to be given to the villagers directly, but was to be used as a collective investment in an urban development project.

Compensation would be given to the villagers once profits were made - a point he said had been made clear to the farmers.

''We are preparing to invest in industrial enterprises and foreign funds will be attracted. But there is some delay as we have difficulty in getting loans from the bank.

''We admit we are not quick enough in handling the money matters, but there is not any corruption,'' Mr Shan said.

A construction materials factory had made a profit of 800,000 yuan which had been distributed to the villagers and three small-scale foreign-invested enterprises, two dyeing factories and one for making clothes, had started operation in the village a fewyears ago.

Mr Shan confirmed that the 30 public security officers deployed used tear-gas. They were compelled to do so because the villagers were attacking them and three of the officers had been injured, he said.

Four villagers were arrested but he claimed none of the protesters had been injured.

A Hong Kong Cable TV news reporter and cameraman covering the protest were detained for about three hours on Sunday for failing to get official approval to report the event. Some of their tapes were seized and a video camera was confiscated for a short while.