Guangdong villages battle over road use

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, 12:00am

Hundreds of villagers in Guangdong province launched a violent attack on a neighbouring village over a land dispute, assaulting its residents and destroying houses with home-made firearms and grenades, locals say.

Residents from Meitian village descended on neighbouring Gangkou in Lufeng county late on Sunday night, hurling rocks, rods and home-made grenades at residents and their houses, according to a Gangkou villager surnamed Xu, who said he witnessed the attack.

They also threw petrol bombs at houses, deliberately setting fire to them.

The attack continued throughout the night and the entire village of about 1,000 residents rushed to escape, Xu said.

They have since set up temporary shelters outside the Jieshi town government headquarters.

About 40 people had been injured, nine seriously, Xu said. Five were hit in the head by metal pellets from the grenades, four in the eyes.

'We're homeless now. So many of our houses were burned out after we left,' Xu said. 'We can't go back or else we'll be beaten. We're like refugees.'

Police sealed off the village, barring cars and outsiders from entering, a local driver said.

A staff member at the Lufeng City Hospital confirmed that villagers injured in the clash were admitted but refused to elaborate.

A duty officer at the Jieshi police station said the conflict had died down but refused to give details.

Roofs and windows of most houses in Gangkou were destroyed, and a couple of houses were burnt out, the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily reported.

The Lufeng government was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the two villages had been attacking each other with fire- crackers and that the government had sent work groups to the villages to investigate.

The clash was the latest in a feud between the two seaside villages that has been going on for a year over the ownership of a road that has access to the sea.

There was a similar violent clash in October, Xu said.

No one answered the phone at the Lufeng and Jieshi governments yesterday.

The feud started early last year when armed Meitian villagers surrounded Gangkou and attacked. More than 400 Gangkou residents boarded 26 fishing boats and sailed to Hong Kong last April in protest over the government's lack of action, said Xu.

The boats were turned back by Hong Kong police after a seven-hour protest near Clear Water Bay.

But Meitian residents complained of a Gangkou assault that included bricks thrown at their houses, according to a villagers' statement on a local website.

It charged that a teenage girl has been raped last year in April and schoolchildren had been beaten by Gangkou residents.

Village clashes have become commonplace on the mainland in recent years.

Last month, more than 300 villagers from Hengshishui, Guangdong, stormed the town government's building, demanding the release of five people detained in a conflict with police over a water diversion project.

In January, residents from Tongru village in Guangdong clashed with police over forced house demolition. Two police cars were burnt after being attacked by villagers' petrol bombs.

Zheng Chuguang, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate, told the body yesterday that social tension had intensified because many officials were doing nothing about injustice.

'Some of our civil servants have little idea about the rule of law ... They do not handle incidents fairly, so mistrust and insecurity in society are exacerbated.'