05/28/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Police and army used to solve the problem of Chinese farmers

Army moves in Rongli (Guangdong) to convince farmers to sell their land at dismally low price. In Yingde (Guangdong) accused of corruption, local authorities use police to prevent residents to present petitions. Row leads to protests; police responds by beating up protesters and arresting everyone.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Residents in Rongli, a village near the city of Foshan (Guangdong), do not want to sell their land for the construction of n expressway. In order to convince them, the authorities have sent in the army. In the meantime police arrested 200 farmers involved in protests in Yingde last Saturday.

Rongli lies in the path of the planned Panyu to Shunde expressway, part of a network of highways being built across the Pearl River Delta economic area, connecting the port with the inland manufacturing centre of Shunde.

Local residents told Radio Free Asia that the price offered for the land is so low that they had could not but refuse the offer.

On Monday night more than 2,000 people went to the Rongli Village Residence Committee to protest.

Eyewitnesses said that the next day 300 soldiers showed up in six buses without licence plates.

Soldiers and local land management bureau officials went house to house “trying to get people to sign an agreement to sell their land, or take responsibility for the outcome. The soldiers were really mean. Some of the older people were so scared they wet themselves," a resident said. Police and officials stayed until around 9 pm.

Given the rising number of incidents and the growing social unrest China’s national leaders have urged local leaders to solve issued fairly and through dialogue, but local leaders are increasingly resorting to law enforcement and security forces to break any opposition.

In the city of Yingde (Guangdong) police arrested more than 200 people last Saturday for attacking a police station and setting it on fire (rounded up protesters pictured).

Farmers accuse local authorities of corruption and demand to know how public funds were spent.

But police is preventing residents to move freely, stopping them from travelling to the provincial capital to petition higher authorities.

Street protests exploded after the arrest of a number of farmers, who were accused of “plotting to gather several hundred persons to petition at the city government office and creating traffic jams on April 29 and May 11 this year,” an alleged plot that “disrupted government business and hurt social stability”.

In the end hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the police station.

According to the authorities, protesters were wielding hoes, sickles, lime powder, bamboo sticks and other weapons when they faced off against the police.

By contrast, eyewitnesses said that more than a thousand policemen charged the demonstrators, beating anyone and anything on their path, launching trained dogs against people, and arresting anyone who was not able to flee.

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