01/13/2014, 00.00
CHINA
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Fujian: authorities destroy cemetery as they grab farmers' land

Officials approve a property development in the south-eastern Chinese province. After almost 17 acres are seized, bulldozers destroy rural graves. Horrified, locals are told they "could sue if we wanted," but that did not matter because "the courts wouldn't accept the case."

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Land grabs in China have not spared cemeteries. In one case in a rural village in the south-eastern province of Fujian, residents are up in arms against local authorities who seized their land and then destroyed the graves of their ancestors.

People in Fujian's Houlong Township told Radio Free Asia that they were shocked and horrified recently when they found out that the graves of their loved ones were empty. "There were six graves," said one resident. Now not "a single bone" is left.

Land grabs are commonplace in rural China. In many cases, government officials simply sell land to private developers before telling residents who usually get a pittance for compensation, far below the land's market value. Such a practice is the cause of thousands of protests.

"The government didn't say anything to us," said Chen, a local resident. "One day we went there [the graves] and found them dug up and empty," he explained. They had been bulldozed, contrary to existing practices.

Officials seized more than 16.5 acres of farmland for the project, following good "ideological work" by the government on local residents," an official said, and this "according to law" and after informing people.

"They sent a couple of people to talk to us," Chen said after his family's complaints met with stonewalling. "They just said the same thing over and over; it's always the same".

A government official "told us we could sue if we wanted but they didn't care where we took it; they weren't worried," Chen explained. "The courts wouldn't accept the case."

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