12/21/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Wukan protest leaders to be freed

by Paul Hong
The body of Xue Jinbo, who died in prison, perhaps under torture, will also be returned. In a televised address the county government admits "mistakes" and promises a reward to the people whose land was expropriated.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Three residents of Wukan, arrested in September during protests against the expropriation of land, will be released between now and tomorrow. In a meeting between local authorities and representatives of the village, the agreement was also reached to release the body of Xue Jinbo, a protest leader who died in prison, and according to residents he was killed under torture.

The 13 thousand inhabitants of Wukan (Guangdong) have been protesting for months against the expropriation of village land by the local authority. In September, they attacked the town hall and police station. The demonstrations have increased and spread to other cities, after the death of Xue Jinbo on 11 December. Because of this, the police cordoned off the village for days and has not allowed the entry of food.

Today they had planned a march and a rally in Lufeng, to put pressure on the authorities of the county, but they postponed the demonstration after receiving guarantees of a meeting and after the authorities admitted that they had "made mistakes".

Speaking on television, the deputy party secretary, Mingguo Zhu said that the demands of the inhabitants of Wukan are "reasonable." The government has also removed the roadblocks around the village.

A spokesman for residents said they had received Zhu’s promise that the owners of expropriated lands will be justly compensated.

The seizure of land or houses - without adequate compensation - has become a major cause of so-called "mass incidents" (strikes, sit-ins, demonstrations, clashes with the police, ...), which are around 180 thousand a year. According to the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, in the last 30 years at least 50 million farmers have lost their homes and another 60 are set to lose them in the next two decades.

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