Villagers out in force in protest over land grab
As many as 5,000 Wukan villagers from Lufeng city in Guangdong were estimated to have surrounded a local government building yesterday morning in protest at what they said were unfulfilled promises by authorities over illegal land seizures without compensation.
The protest came two months after villagers and police squared off in a massive riot over the same issue. Dozens of locals and police officers were injured, the local party headquarters was raided and six police cars were overturned, while a handful of others had their windows smashed. The protests over land grabs then spread to neighbouring communities.
In the wake of the riots, Wukan residents were promised that a government-led task force would look into their appeals. But villagers say the response was insufficient.
The villagers had accused local officials of seizing more than 400 hectares of farmland since 1998.
Yesterday, villagers marched seven kilometres to the county-level city government office in Lufeng. They chanted slogans and held banners and flags targeting what they said were greedy and corrupt officials.
The villagers spoke out against the lack of democratic elections in the village. They said their farmland had been destroyed and sold off without any compensation being paid to the 12,000 residents.
They gathered outside the city government building for nearly an hour and dispersed peacefully after they were promised a speedy reply by Lufeng party secretary Yang Naifa , who vowed to look into their three appeals - for an official democratic village election, compensation for land illegally taken and a full disclosure of the village's financial records.
Some people who took part in yesterday's protest put the number of villagers at between 3,000 and 5,000, but Liu Jingmao, a spokesman for the Shanwei city government, which oversees Lufeng, put the number closer to 400. He said the villagers' appeals would be thoroughly investigated.
Yang Semao, 44, who quit his job in June to join his fellow petitioning villagers in Wukan, said that local anger at corruption had reached boiling point.
'They are very angry and upset, not only about the land issues but because for 12 years, since 1999, we have had five terms of the village government, but none of those officials were elected,' Yang said. 'If there is no satisfactory response, we will petition our case to the central government in Beijing.'
Liu Bingxiong, 38, who owns a grocery store in the village, said local officials had already fled.
'They are nowhere to be found,' he said. 'The village chief once told us to go ahead and sue, but he vowed to eliminate us if we failed. It is unrealistic to expect that we will be fully compensated, but it is unacceptable to get no compensation at all.'
The value, in yuan, that Wukan villagers put on their land but no official audits have been disclosed to confirm that figure