12/07/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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People displaced by dam on Yangtze River to protest against corruption

Communist officials are accused of embezzling government compensation money to fund their children’s overseas education. A large protest rally is planned for tomorrow.

Zigui (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Many residents of Hubei province plan to gather at the Zigui county government building tomorrow to denounce corruption among local officials. Displaced under the Three Gorges Dam resettlement project the residents have received only a fraction of the compensation money the government pledged for their lost land, most of it having been embezzled by local officials.

One resident said at least “several hundred” Zigui residents will appear to express their dissatisfaction over late resettlement payments.

Residents claim they should each get an up front lump sum of 38,000 yuan, a “settlement fee” for their expropriated land in accordance with a central government document released in 1995. So far, they have received only 5,000 yuan. They are also entitled to an annual living expenses subsidy of 600 yuan, which, with the settlement fee, could add up to more than 50,000 yuan per person by 2026, when the annual payments will end. So far though, they have been paid practically nothing.

“Officers from the Public Security Bureau have been on alert and they have been following some of the ordinary citizens in this county,” a would-be protester said. “But still we need to have our voices heard because without this money, we have great problems making ends meet.”

Since last week, some residents have attended meetings with county officials, who told them the 600 yuan subsidies would "eventually" be released.

Some residents claim Communist officials siphoned off the money to fund their children's overseas education.

The US$ 22.5 billion Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is the world's biggest hydroelectric project and will generate enough power to provide power to an area twice the size of Italy.

According to human rights groups, the dam will have displaced more than 1.4 million people by the time it comes into full operation in 2008.

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