08/27/2007, 00.00
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Farmers in revolt near Harbin against land seizures, one dead, many wounded

Developers try to carry out a virtual land heist against a village near Harbin. Farmers set up roadblocks but are charged by police and private enforcers sent by developers.

Harbin (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least one person was killed and dozens injured yesterday in a village near Harbin, Heilongjiang province, after residents clashed with armed police and thugs sent by developers to seize their land, witnesses said.

Clashes broke out in the morning in Yutian village between farmers and more than 100 armed officers after days of a standoff between the residents, who want to stop land seizures, and people wielding sticks and steel bars witnesses said were hired by developers.

When it became evident that residents would not be scared away, the latter—allegedly led by village party boss Li Peizeng—called in armed police to disperse the crowd.

Locals set up roadblocks at the edge of the village to defend their land because the compensation developers were offering fell far below the land’s value.

Zhao Qing, whose home is among those set for demolition under the redevelopment plan, said: “We either have no place to live or have to settle for a much smaller house.”

Despite steadfast resistance, locals have had to give in and demolitions have already begun.

Clashes of this type are become increasingly frequent and worrying the government, which is proving unable to stop them.

According to Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang, the number of major incidents has grown exponentially, from about 10,000 in 1994, to 74,000 in 2004 and over 87,000 in 2005.

Every day some 120 to 230 demonstrations are reported to Beijing, mostly in the countryside where local officials tend to seize land and sell it to developers and industrialists who want to set up large-scale production plants.

Residents who are thrown off the land and inadequately compensated have no recourse but protest, and often resort to violence.

The government, which is very much afraid of the problem, has by and large responded by launching anti-corruption campaigns.

In its latest attempt the authorities launched an initiative on November 13 of last year requiring local officials to give out compensation fairly and offer people replacement housing whenever land is expropriated.

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