12/12/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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Government minimises Dongzhou massacre

There was almost no media coverage of the clashes in the Guangdong village. Government acknowledges three dead and eight injured. Independent sources report more than 70 dead.

Dongzhou (AsiaNews) – The deadly crackdown against demonstrators in the village of Dongzhou was scarcely covered by China's media. Only yesterday did the government acknowledge the incident which it blamed on the violence of the demonstrators.

In the southern province of Guangdong where the village is located, only three local papers reported the official version.

In all three, the reports carried the same headline 'Serious anti-law incident takes place in Red Sea Bay Development Zone of Shanwei city'.

They also said that the commanding officer who ordered security forces to shoot on demonstrators was arrested for mishandling the situation and violating the penal code. They noted that he accidentally caused the death of three people and injuries to another eight.

However, the violence was blamed on the demonstrators who attempted "by every means" to clash with the officers.

The clash occurred after three village representatives were unfairly arrested. On December 5, they had gone to the site of an electrical power plant under construction to demand compensation that had promised for the expropriated land be paid out.

The next day, villagers went to the same construction site demanding their release. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd with little success. Hours later the anti-riot squad arrived and opened fire.

Although there are no reliable figures, unofficial sources speak of more than 70 dead and hundreds of wounded.

Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua reported that villagers believed their fung shui would be affected by a wind-power farm being built on the land.

"The incident is a serious crime instigated by a small number of people," the Xinhua report said. "A very small number of instigators are the main culprits. They must shoulder the legal responsibility of the serious consequence of what has happened."

The news report, which appeared on the agency's website, is no longer available. China's papers, including those of the capital, failed to write anything about the incident.

Dongzhou residents are not satisfied with the official version.

"We do not trust any officials in Guangdong, even the provincial government," said one villager who sat with fellow villagers near last Tuesday's clash site. "They share the same interests and they would only cover for one another."

"I've seen relatives of the people who were killed kneeling in front of the police (see photo) asking them to return the bodies," said a villager surnamed Wei. "But the police have refused to hand over the bodies. They've taken them away and we don't know were they are at the moment," she said.

Clashes between police and rural communities are on the rise in China. Unfettered economic development is pushing politicians and business people to find ways to seizing land for new industrial development at the expense of farmers.   

On June 11, six farmers died and more than one hundred were seriously injured when armed men attacked the village of Shengyou (Hebei), where a company owned by a son of Minister Li Peng wants to build an electrical power plant on land confiscated from farmers.

Another typical example is that of Taishi, a village of some 2,000 people in Guangdong province, where farmers revolted after the local village chief (fraudulently elected) was corrupted into illegally seizing and selling their land.

Despite its concern over the rising tide of social unrest, the central government seems impotent to stem it.

According to figures released by the Public Security Ministry, the number of protests grew from around 10,000 in 1994 to 74,000 last year involving some 3.5 million people.

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