10/19/2006, 00.00
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Injuries and arrests as Guangzhou police attack protesting villagers

Xingtan residents went to the capital of the extremely wealthy province of Guangdong to protest against the theft of their lands. Two had to be hospitalized with serious injuries. Dozens more were injured and 10 were arrested.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews/RFA) – Police of Guangzhou (Canton) have attacked a group of people protesting against the seizure of their land by the state. Two people are hospitalized with serious injuries and dozens of others were beaten, local residents said.

On 15 October, at around 10.30am, around 900 residents of Xingtan township gathered outside the government offices in the capital of the extremely wealthy province of Guangdong to stage a protest against the expropriation of their land.

On the same evening, the authorities mobilized more than 2,000 police in anti-riot gear and dispatched them to the place with orders to load the protesters onto buses and send them back home. One of the protesters – anonymous for security reasons – said: "They arrived suddenly and beat up anyone staging a protest, whether they were male or female, young or old."

During the operation, "the police probably blinded one villager with something sharp, and broke the leg of another. Between 10 and 20 villagers were injured that night." Another resident of Xingtang, Luo, said: "After the clash, at least 10 people were detained including my older brother and two village-level representatives of the local People's Congress."

The residents did not give up: forced to return home, they continued the protest outside local government offices. Some villagers boarded a train to Beijing to present a petition to authorities there, but "officials in the capital were apathetic and were unlikely to do anything to help", said Luo.

The latest social unrest coincided with a visit to the Guangzhou Trade Fair by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. Wen has often warned Chinese leaders that "illegal seizures of land in rural areas could lead to instability".

Social unrest is generated because of uneven and unfair economic development: under the guise of promoting industrial and urban development, some 40 million farmers have been deprived of their land and most are now poor and unemployed. Some 120 million people who can no longer be employed in rural areas have become migrant workers, working underpaid in industrial plants and restaurants and on construction sites. There is a high demand for migrant workers' labour especially in rich coastal areas but usually they end up as victims of abuse by employers. The lack of respect for the law among party members and local authorities leads to exasperation and clashes.

According to Zhou Yongkang, China's public security minister, mass protests in the country are up from 10,000 incidents in 1994 to 74,000 in 2004. Last year the number was 87,000. Every day central authorities in Beijing are getting information about clashes whose number averages anywhere between 120 and 230 incidents per day, mostly in the countryside. And increasingly, such incidents are turning violent.

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See also
Guangdong: 4,000 villagers take hostage 300 Communist officials, foreign guests
Villages threaten more revolts against pollution
Nine "instigators" arrested over Dongzhou riots
China scholars condemn shootings in Dongzhou
Government minimises Dongzhou massacre


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