Police in Shandong have detained a man who allegedly attacked villagers with illegal pepper spray during a land grab conflict.
Seven victims from Gujundian village have been hospitalised and are receiving treatment in Liaocheng, a development district in northern China.
A government statement posted online on Thursday said the suspect, a local villager working at a construction site, confessed he illegally bought and used police-use pepper spray on others.
The assailant attacked the villagers after they tried to halt operations at the construction site which they said were the result of an illegal land grab, reported The Beijing News on Thursday, citing locals.
The villagers claim they did not receive the land compensation previously agreed by the government. “We only received 84,000 yuan [per acre] (HK$106,000) in farm crop compensation, but not the land compensation that’s worth 288,000 yuan [per acre],” local villager Chen Shikui was cited as saying.
A Liaocheng government spokesman told the newspaper the farming land expropriated from villagers was used to construct an embankment for flood protection, while the compensation was used to purchase a financial product run by the city’s Finance Bureau, with the consent of six village representatives.
But all six representatives quickly rebuffed the claim, the report said. They insisted that “the signatures and fingerprints on the document of consent [were] all falsified”.
The government statement published at noon on Thursday said they were still looking into the farmers’ accounts.
Land in rural areas in China are collectively owned by all members of a village, and theoretically speaking can only be sold, in return for cash payment or other forms of investment for farmers, with the consent of the village committee.
But it is not uncommon for powerful local officials to profit from arbitrarily selling the land to developers for large sums, while passing on inadequate compensation to villagers. Resulting conflicts between these officials and disgruntled villagers often result in violence, and sometimes even death.
In March this year, the head of a village, also in Shandong province, attempted to expropriate land from villagers for compensation of 150,000 yuan per acre, only to sell the land onto a developer for 7.38 million yuan per acre.
When villagers tried to stop construction on the expropriated land, the village head and the construction contractor orchestrated an arson attack which killed one villager and injured three others.