Shenzhen authorities have promised villagers they will investigate land grabs linked to disgraced officials and the local branch of Hong Kong's Sun Yee On triad after hundreds of people protested on Sunday.
About 400 people from Wanfeng village, in Shajing subdistrict, protested against land seizures and alleged corruption by blockading a section of Baoan Road, a main road in the city's Baoan district, for hours on Sunday.
The villagers said their move was sparked by a Shenzhen police crackdown last week on a gang linked to Hong Kong's Sun Yee On triad. Many armed police arrived at the scene of the protest but no one was detained. Officials promised to investigate the village's property and financial records.
Shajing Communist Party head Liu Shaoxiong and some other officials were sacked during the anti-triad campaign and Liu is being investigated by the party's discipline watchdog over his alleged close links to the Shajing branch of Sun Yee On. Pan Zeyong, Wanfeng village's party head, has also been taken away for investigation, villagers said.
The villagers have circulated photographs of their protest on the internet and are calling for a fresh village party committee election and the return of their land.
'Some senior officials at the district level met us this morning,' one villager said on Monday. 'If they don't deal with our case in time, we will step up our protest.'
People from another village in Shajing, Bogang, said in internet postings they had also suffered from land grabs and corruption and would copy Wanfeng's protest action. Power in the village had been held by one family for decades, they said.
'Pan Qiangen was party head of the village from the 1980s and then turned the position over to his son [Pan Zeyong],' one villager said. 'For years, they sold our collective land at dirt-cheap prices and never shared profits with villagers. But we were always too scared to say a word because we'd heard that Pan Zeyong was a triad member.
'In 2006, a 58-year-old villager, Pan Haijin, tried to lead villagers to petition against the 'gangland-style' management of the village officials but failed.
'The Shajing authorities took no action even though we reported our suffering time and again. And Pan Haijin's house has been severely damaged by unknown gangsters in what we all believe is retaliation from village officials.'
The villager said officials and their family had become multimillionaires from the sale and leasing of land.
'The village officials not only have direct links with many illegal real estate projects but have also forced the factories and shops to pay them for protection, like a real triad,' a woman villager said. 'They require the businessmen who rent our land to run factories and shops to pay one yuan for each square metre each month. That means the people had to pay hundreds of thousands of yuan extra each year. It's all illegal income and villagers got nothing.'