Some 3,000 residents in Yilong Village clash with an equal number of policemen. They want compensation for land taken by the authorities but never paid out. Unrest related to unfairness and corruption is rising.
Guangzhou (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hundreds of villagers clashed with riot police outside Zhongshan, Guangdong province, this weekend in protest over a long-running dispute over land grabs by local officials. Police said the violence occurred when "a small number of villagers from Yilong village" attacked an industrial estate at around 7 am on Saturday, "fighting, smashing, looting and setting fire".
Other media reports and micro blog posts suggest the incident was much larger, involving upwards of 3,000 villagers and hordes of riot police. The battle lasted well into the night.
Uploaded pictures showed the alleged bloodied corpse of one elderly villager said to have been killed in the clashes, although Zhongshan police denied there had been any deaths.
Yilong residents accuse the former secretary of their village of selling their land on his own and withholding the compensation from them. At present, the disputed land is occupied by the Xiaolan Jinrui industrial park.
"As the government was not willing to give compensation of 1.5 million yuan per mu of land (700 m2), and they could not bring negotiations to a conclusion, they sent in the police to beat up the villagers," one blog writer said. "Villagers were left with no option except to fight back."
The dispute between residents and the authorities had been simmering since August. As a result of the clash, companies were forced to cease temporarily production and workers laid off.
The number of episodes of economically related social unrest is up in China. Thousands of people are taking to the streets to protest land confiscation and corruption.
According to Børge Bakken, professor of sociology at Hong Kong University, mass incidents numbered 127,000 last year, up from 9,000 in the mid-1990s.
Protests are especially frequent in rural areas, but are increasing in cities as well, including clashes with police.
For years, Chinese leaders have pledged zero tolerance vis-à-vis corruption but facts indicate that things are actually getting worse.