Friday, November 10, 2006

Protesters Clash with Police over Land Disputes

Villagers in Sanzhou, Guangdong, confronted police

More than 10,000 people clashed with riot police in the village of Sanzhou, Guangdong, on Friday, during a protest over land dispute. NBC news aired footage of the clash on Friday morning, showing police using tear gas to disperse the crowds in a chaotic scene. This was one of the biggest clashes between protesters and the police since the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, NBC said.

Villagers in Sanzhou have been protesting against illegal seizure of their land by local officials and corruption for months and on Wednesday, they detained a few foreigners and government officials in a warehouse which they said was built upon such disputable land. The officials and guests from Hong Kong, Germany, Thailand and Britain were in there for the facility’s inauguration ceremony. The officials and guests have been let out by Friday, the South China Morning Post reported.

Land disputes have been one of the major causes for uprisings in China, especially in rural area, in recent years. In most of the cases, villagers protested local officials' grab of farmland and selling it to real estate developers. Local governments could gain tremendous profits by selling the land while villagers sometimes receiving little compensation or nothing at all. Such land deals are also plagued with alleged corruptions and foul plays, such as bribery between real estate developers and government officials and selling farmland that are supposed to be preserved as farmland.

The central government has warned local officials against illegal land seizure, but the rapacious land demand for real estate developments and limited supply, in addition to huge profits, could almost annul the warnings.

----by Josie Liu

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