South China villagers riot over land dispute
Beijing: South Chinese villagers wielding clubs and stones attacked an industrial park, incensed by reports that an official had sold land without compensating them, police and media said on Sunday in the latest flare-up over commercial development.
The riot broke out on Saturday in Zhongshan in Guangdong province, where rice paddy land has given way to factories that make many of China's exports.
Authorities said the violence was quelled by police who took away suspected organisers.
Residents of Yilong Village "attacked the Jinrui Industrial Park in Xiaolan Town, and took part in attacking, smashing, looting and arson," the Zhongshan city public security office said on its blog (http://weibo.com/gdzs110).
Reports that villagers died in the latest eruption of land unrest were untrue, the Zhongshan police bureau said in a statement.
The Zhongshan police said the dispute over a patch of land had festered since August and become so heated that factories in the area had to halt production.
Caixin Magazine, a Chinese business journal, reported that the dispute was sparked by complaints that a former village official had illicitly sold off land without paying residents compensation.
Villagers had begun vigilante patrols to "prevent employees of the developer concerned from going to work”, the magazine reported on its website (http://china.caixin.cn), citing residents.
In China, most rural land is officially under village collective ownership, but in reality government officials control its development, leading to frequent disputes over land control and compensation.
Local protests are common in China, but are not generally seen as a serious challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist party.
In September, thousands of villagers in Lufeng, another part of Guangdong province, rioted and ransacked government offices, protesting against land requisitions by officials.
Earlier this year, Zhou Ruijin, a former deputy editor-in-chief of the official party newspaper, the People's Daily, said there had been more than 90,000 "mass incidents" -- a term for riots, protests and demonstrations -- every year from 2007 to 2009.
A recent poll found disputes over land acquisitions had reached a new peak amid rampant development and were a leading cause of rural clashes across China, a magazine run by the official Xinhua news agency reported last month.