02/07/2006, 00.00
China
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China, farmers defend human rights activist

Protests continue in the Chinese countryside, tension over local authority corruption increases. Every day Beijing registers between 120 and 230 social demonstrations.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Scmp) – Rural protests in China show no sign of decreasing, despite government promises. Yesterday tensions in Shandong drew to an end, but the police paid heavily: protesters overturned trucks attempting to disperse the crowd, smashing all the windows.

The protest in Yinan county of Dongshigu villagers, was instigated after Chen Hua – cousin and neighbour of the famous blind activist Chen Guangcheng – was beaten by "unknown assailors" and later arrested by police for his continued committment to the civil rights movement.

Following the arrest, tensions flared when villagers demanded they be allowed to send Chen Hua's grandmother to hospital after she fainted. A thug hurled stones at villager Du Dehai when he made the request, leaving him with a bleeding head wound.

The villagers reacted by pushing two government vehicles and a police car into a metre-deep ditch and smashing the windows. Out of a population of 480 villagers, 300 confronted the police and thugs

Last year China witnessed 87,000 incidents of "social unrest". Over the previous year, this marks a 6.6 per cent increase in "disturbances to the public order", a 13 per cent increase in incidents of "illegal interference in government business" and an 11.8 per cent increase in cases of "provocation and stirring up trouble". Each day the central government registers between 120 and 230 protests

The increase in protests and their "agricultural" connotations are directly linked to the decentralization of the Chinese economy in the last 15 years from farming to industry.

Over forty million farmers lose their land every year while 2 million more people enter the job market, often undepaid or forced to migrate.

Land requisition is arbitrary, some farmers receive only 0.8 yuan per mu (0.06667 hectares) of land and are told to "move to the city".

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