Land grabs blamed again for rioting in Guangdong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2011, 12:00am


Hundreds of villagers carrying rocks and clubs clashed with riot police outside Zhongshan, Guangdong province, this weekend in protest over a long-running dispute over alleged land grabs by local officials.

Zhongshan police said the violence occurred when 'a small number of villagers from Yilong village' attacked an industrial estate at around 7am on Saturday, 'fighting, smashing, looting and setting fire'.

However, other media reports and unconfirmed microblog posts suggested the incident was much larger, involving upwards of 3,000 villagers and hordes of riot police.

Photographs uploaded on Sina Weibo, the mainland's Twitter-like microblog, and other websites showed unconfirmed images of burning factories emitting plumes of black smoke, columns of black-clad riot police trooping through the village and crowds of residents engaging in stand-offs with the police and a nighttime sit-down protest.

Yilong village is a kilometre-long ribbon of houses outside Dongsheng township, northwest of Zhongshan. The incident occurred in an industrial park south of the village.

Blog posts also showed protest banners complaining about 'weak and inept' officials, and claimed the protest came after Dongsheng government officials sold off village land for their own personal gain.

'As the government was not willing to give compensation of 1.5 million yuan [HK$1.8 million] per mu of land, and they could not bring negotiations to a conclusion, they sent in the police to beat up the villagers,' one writer said. 'Villagers were left with no option except to fight back.'

Pictures also showed the alleged bloodied corpse of one elderly villager said to have been killed in the clashes, although Zhongshan police denied there had been any deaths.

The police force posted a statement on its official microblog - under the username 'Pingan Zhongshan' (peaceful Zhongshan) - on Saturday night, saying that the situation was 'basically under control'.

'Since August, individual villagers in Yilong village, Dongsheng township, acting for their own personal gain have been provoking a portion of villagers, making use of historical problems over many years related to land leases in between the two townships of Dongsheng and Xiaolan, to deliberately instigate a seige of Xiaolan Jinrui industrial park,' the statement said.

The microblog later dismissed online reports of a death occurring during the clashes as 'rumour', and defended the police's use of force.

'Nobody died in yesterday's handling [of the protests],' one post read, uploaded yesterday afternoon.

A spokesman for the local government in Dongsheng township declined to comment on the incident, while police from Dongsheng township also declined to comment.