12/07/2011, 00.00
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Land grab in Guangdong and Jiangxi trigger peaceful demonstrations and suicides

Southern China is increasingly rent by social unrest and class conflict. Residents in Wukan (Guangdong) protest again against government injustices. In Xiangtan, two peasant women try to kill themselves after their land is seized. “Mass incidents” are on the rise.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – In China social unrest is growing in intensity. After strikes hit Shanghai, it is the turn of the rich southern province of Guangdong to experience mass incidents. In Wukan village, thousands of residents staged a peaceful protest to protest against government repression. In Xiangtan, Jiangxi (another southern province), two peasant women tried to commit suicide after the authorities seized their land unlawfully.

In Wukan, thousands of residents took to the streets to protest against a decision by local authorities to deem illegal their petitions to the central government.

For the past two months, residents have been involved in a number of actions after farmland was seized on 21 September. On that occasion, when they took to the streets, they were met by police.

Yesterday, they were back in the streets accusing the government of not respecting its promises. Some carried a banner reading "Opposing Dictatorship".

Despite such petitions, Beijing is ignoring grassroots demands. Instead, it has launched a crackdown and arrested protest movement’s leaders.

In some cases, matters are getting out of hand. Peaceful protests are turning violent and farmers are taking their own lives to protest the injustice they endure, which is what happened in Xiangtan, where two peasant women tried to kill themselves out of desperation after their land was forcibly seized.

Zhao Xiujun and Liu Lan lost their three mu (0.5 acres) of land, which the government bought at 20,000 yuan per mu and resold for 900,000. The first woman slashed her wrist with a knife and the other drank pesticide. Both are currently in intensive care.

The authorities seize land for resale to private developers in order to fuel the real estate bubble, which economists believe is close to its bursting point. In the past two months, housing prices have in fact started to come down for the time in many years across the country, including Beijing and Shanghai.

Under Chinese law, local administrations must pay expropriated farmers a fair price, but this is often not the case. And the seized land is often used in infrastructure plans profusely funded by big banks.

The ongoing land grab and the failure to pay fair or any compensation are the root cause of so-called “mass incidents”. In 1994, some 8,700 such incidents were recorded. In 2006, there were 127,000. Last year, the number jumped to 180,000.
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