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Govt forced to cancel land deal as people take to streets

world Updated: Mar 11, 2013 19:09 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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A village committee chief was among the 10 people arrested after protests over a controversial land deal in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong turned violent.

Besides arresting local officials and suspending a local area Communist Party of China (CPC) chief, authorities were forced to cancel the land deal that triggered the protests.

Anger over the deal in the neighbouring Shangpu and Mianhu townships was simmering for days but erupted in violence on Sunday when thousands of policemen clashed with villagers, lobbed tear gas shells and beat up demonstrators.

An unknown number of people were injured in the clash while dozens of vehicles were damaged; angry residents stopped authorities for days from towing away the burnt, broken vehicles as a mark of protest.

The current situation in Shangpu and Mianhu echo the high-profile standoff over land seizures in Wukan village, about an hour's drive away. Residents had protested for several months over murky land sales in 2011.

Like Wukan, Shangpu villagers are also calling for elections to vote in a new village leader.

With China’s Parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC) in session, the tightly controlled state media largely played down the incident.

At the centre of the controversy is a land deal involving 33 hectares of rice paddies on the outskirts of the Shangpu village that were leased cheaply to a firm called Wan Feng for 50 years to build an electric cable factory. The deal, made without majority village consent, was brokered by village committee chief Li.

The state-run Global Times newspaper carried a report saying Li Baoyu, the head of the Shangpu village committee, was “detained due to his involvement in physical confrontations with local villagers, according to a statement released by Jiexi county government's publicity department on Saturday, adding that Li's nomination as the director of the village committee had also been also revoked.”

Dang Guoying, a researcher with the Rural Development Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that in order to stamp out corruption in rural areas and avoid unrest caused by land disputes, land reform has to be carried out.

He noted that the current system of collective ownership of land in rural areas should be changed. “The purpose of the land must be clearly specified and no change of purpose should be allowed,” Dang said.