China vows crackdown on leaders of village revolt

Thousands of residents of a south China village rallied on Wednesday in defiance of police who sealed off the area to contain a long-running feud over land grabs.

Last Updated: Dec 15, 2011, 17:58 PM IST

Beijing: China`s government has vowed to
crack down on the leaders of a revolt in a southern village
and investigate local officials over land seizures at the
heart of the residents` unhappiness.

The protests in Guangdong province are part of a growing
trend of confrontation between Chinese and their government
over the seizure of land for business development projects.
Residents in Wukan village have complained that their farmland
was sold by local officials to developers to build factories
without their consent.

Wu Zili, acting mayor of Shanwei city, told reporters
Wednesday that strong measures would be taken against Wukan
villagers who instigated others to create trouble and damage
public property, according to the China News Agency.

The mayor promised to investigate village officials for
wrongdoing and to impose a temporary freeze on the development
of the village`s farmland until a majority of villagers are
satisfied with the conditions of the land transfer.

The residents have essentially taken over the fishing
village of 20,000 people after officials either fled from
earlier protests, absconded with the money from land sales or
were fired, according to various accounts.

Problems in Wukan date back to September, when hundreds
of villagers angered by the land dispute smashed buildings and
clashed with police. In the months that followed, villagers
have submitted petitions and sought meetings with higher level
officials.

The current unrest started about six days ago when police
started taking away key village representatives. Villagers
fought back, blockading the roads with tree trunks and
barriers to prevent police from entering.

About five days ago, police started blocking roads
leading to Wukan and prevented food from being transported in,
villagers reached by phone have said.

On Sunday, Xue Jinbo, a man accused of participating in
the September land protest, died in police custody, further
angering residents, who suspected he was beaten. Chinese media
reported that local police and provincial authorities said Xue
died of cardiac failure.

With a booming economy, demand for land to build
factories and housing complexes has soared. Land disputes have
grown apace, becoming one of the leading causes of the tens of
thousands of large-scale protests that hit China every year.

PTI