12/16/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Lufeng, Wukan protest widens

After the death of a protest leader in Guangdong, another village joins Wukan residents to demand justice over land grabs and electoral fraud. It is “An exemplary case of grassroots justice and an alarm bell for the regime,” analysts say.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Residents of Longtou, a coastal village in Lufeng County (Guangdong), staged a rally yesterday demanding justice for the rural leader who died in police custody following riots over land grabs in Wukan, a village where residents have been protesting against government abuses, forced land seizures and electoral fraud.

Riots broke out in Wukan in September when hundreds of residents attacked the local government building and a police station following the forcible seizure of their land. After the central government promised to look into the matter, the unrest stopped. However, opposed by local authorities, the inquiry got nowhere. This has reignited the protest, further fuelled by the death in prison of Xue Jinbo, a protest leader.

A woman from Wukan village, who requested anonymity, said about 7,000 people attended yesterday's rally and a gathering to mourn Xue Jinbo. The autopsy conducted by the authorities indicate that he died of a heart attack during interrogation, but no one believes it. Instead, people want justice from the provincial government since local authorities do not listen.

China’s unfettered economic development has pushed land prices through the roof (up to 155 per cent since 1998). Speculator and business people, backed by corrupt local authorities, have bought farmland and entire neighbourhoods without proper compensation for residents.

Land grabs have become the main cause of so-called “mass incidents” (strikes, sit-ins, demonstrations, clashes with police, etc.). The situation has deteriorated because local government have become involved with speculators at the expense of residents’ rights.

Although Beijing has issued laws and adopted regulations within the Communist Party to reign in the problem, it has not had any real results.

"Using military force to suppress us isn't going to solve the problem,” a Wukan resident said. Justice is needed.

In the past 30 years, at least 50 million farmers have lost their land, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said last month. Another 60 will lose it in the next 20.

Some 500 “mass incidents” a day were recorded last year, said Sun Liping, a professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University

The Wukan case should be seen as an alarm bell for the regime, Chinese and foreign analysts note. Farmers take to the streets because they want respect for their rights, not a political revolution, which Beijing could crush with force.
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