Seven suspects accused of killing a 63-year-old villager in an arson attack have been arrested in Shandong province, in the latest incidence of violence related to land disputes.
The announcement was made on the official weibo account of Pingdu police after the death last of Geng Fulin in Dujiatuan village last Friday shocked the nation.
Accounts that were soon censored online also alleged that local armed policemen had been sent to confiscate Geng’s body from his family. Geng’s body was cremated a day later, according to Chinese media reports.
This allegation, which the government promptly denied, angered villagers who accused local officials of colluding with the suspects.
Villagers in Dujiatuan, which is administered by Pingdu, had been taking turns guarding their farms at night, fearing they would be seized by gangs hired by property developers. In the early hours of Friday, the tent where Geng and three others slept was set on fire. Geng died and ther others were injured.
Pingdu police allege that a man surnamed Du, an executive of a local real estate developer, and a village head surnamed Cui, masterminded the attack, according to their statement.
Cui and Du were accused of hiring several others to carry out the attack, according to the police statement.
Police also denied the land grab was ‘illegal’ in their weibo statement. All the paperwork had been filed. Villagers had agreed to a settlement proposed by the developer, it said.
As of May last year, a total compensation fee of over 9.44 million yuan had been paid to the village, it said. In October, local government had paid another 15 million yuan in compensation to the village, it said.
But villagers denied they had received all the money, according to Beijing News.  Many also said they had not agreed to selling the land to the developer.
There are 197 households in Dujiatuan village with a total population of 646. The size of the land that was in dispute was 89,244 square meters, according to Beijing News.
Disputes over land grabs in China- often approved by local governments and initiated by real estate developers - have constantly resulted in violent confrontations and deaths.
Pingdu has gained notoriety in recent years after several high-profile cases involving rural land grabs made national headlines.
In August, Pingdu police detained seven villagers after they clashed with government workers while resisting the forced demolition of their family home.
One of the protesters was Chen Baocheng, a Beijing-based journalist who had gone back to his hometown in Pingdu to defend the family home.
In another land grab row last August, three villagers from the city's Beijiajiang village were hospitalised after knife-wielding thugs attacked them.