09/26/2011, 00.00
CHINA

Beijing: zero tolerance against illegal land-grabs

Dozens of officials, responsible for unlawful or unfair evictions, have been punished. But often citizens must take to the streets to attract the attention of authorities. In Lufeng, a truce between protesters and authorities, after days of protesting and riots.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Beijing has punished government officials responsible for 57 illegal land requisitions and forced demolitions. Meanwhile in Lufeng (Guangdong), authorities promise "a serious investigation" and obtained a truce with thousands of residents who have been protesting in the square for a week.

The state news agency Xinhua reported that 31 officials are under "criminal investigation" in relation to 11 cases of forced evictions which have caused violent protests in the first 6 months of 2011. In 6 cases, the evictions were completely "illegal", while the other 5 were “badly executed”.

180,000 mass protests erupt in this country every year for economic reasons. In many cases, people accuse local officials of requisitioning their land without fair compensation, to the exclusive benefit of manufacturers and entrepreneurs, even involving the police or gangs of thugs to chase off the farmers. In March in Changchun (the capital of Jilin), a 48 year-old woman was killed during a forced eviction.

Experts note that these 11 cases, where violent protests have attracted Beijing's attention, are just the "tip of the iceberg" compared to the number of evictions without adequate compensation, which bring great benefits to businesses, manufacturers and local governments and that the real problem is the lack of legal protection for those who undergo routine evictions.

The protesters are only seeking justice. Thousands of villagers in Wukan (Lufeng in Guangdong) took to the streets the whole of last week (pictured), ransacking the police station and other public offices and blocking the highway to protest the uncompensated requisition of hundreds of hectares of agricultural land, essential for their livelihood, on which factories are to be built. After days of clashes and the protest being featured on the news, the government of Lufeng (1.7 million inhabitants) has promised "serious investigations" and a possible democratic election to replace local leaders, including Xue Chang, Secretary of the Communist Party for 39 years. The demonstrators have vowed to work together and to avoid taking "drastic" action.

The protests were spreading in the area. In the nearby village of Longtou, residents tore down the fence around 40 acres of agricultural land from which they were recently evicted.
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