07/23/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Daily fight over land in China

Local authorities are seizing land from thousands of farmers, depriving them of their homes and fields for paltry compensation. They claim it is to favour the economic development of the country, but residents complain that officials pocket compensation money, and that once they have lost their land they have lost their livelihood.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Local authorities are subject to little or no supervision and act as they please, expelling farmers from their land, indifferent to their fate, which is often hunger. But many farmers are resisting, using all the means at their disposal, in Henan, Zheijiang, Guangdong.

In Gushi (Henan) local authorities want farmers off of their land to build a cement factory, but residents are against the move because farming is all they have to earn a living.

Last week the head of the village sent a letter to all the residents, offering compensation. The latter cannot however refuse because higher authorities have said that anyone who rejects the deal will suffer expulsion without compensation.

Dongba village resident Wang Dengyou told Radio Free Asia that people in his village will never sell the land. “Our plan was not to sell this land,” said Wang, who received the government letter offering 12,500 yuan (US$ 1,830) per mu (0.06 hectares). "If we sell it, then we won't have anything to eat.”

As farmers they know no other way of life. Once the compensation money is gone, they would have nothing to eat.

Some residents have slammed County authorities because whilst they are getting 20,000 yuan per mu, farmers are only getting only 12,500 with the difference going into the authorities’ pockets.

Media have noted that Henan, a poor farming region, has been the scene of many protests against land seizures.

Since he became Communist party secretary in 2004 Guo Yongchang has been trying to attract investments to the region, but he has done so by trying to buy land from poor farmers on the cheap to build plants, industrial complexes, shopping centres and even public buildings.

According to official sources, some 87,000 economically-related mass incidents occurred last year across the country, including protests by farmers trying to protect their land and homes. When offered, compensation is small, usually not enough to buy a new house.

In Sisha village (Zhejiang) residents found out last week about a secret deal giving their land to developers. The whole thing came to light only after bulldozers moved in and began levelling the nearby Yanyushan hill. Their own village committee had sold the land behind their backs, to Lide Co., in secret fearing protest.

When the bulldozers arrived, so did dozens of policemen and anti-riot agents as well as a goon squad hired by the company.

In the village of Nanwan (Gaungdong), thousands or people protested in front of city hall (pictured) on 7 July against the seizure of land to build an eel farm.

Since city fathers refused to address the residents’ grievances, the latter decided to organise a permanent demonstration. Every night, after work in their fields, some six to seven thousands residents protest, beating their drums and clashing gongs. They plan to maintain their vigil.

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