Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Huge demonstrations in China

One of the first articles at ZNet's new China Watch section discusses this:

Unrest Sharply Increasing Through Much Of China

by Jonathan Manthorpe
November 09, 2004

Away from the shimmering facade of its golden coastal cities, China is seething with violent discontent.

New figures published in the Communist party magazine Outlook say that last year there was an average of 160 major incidents of social unrest every day in China's hinterland.

Many of these outbursts of peasant outrage involved tens of thousands of people and some carried on for days as riot squads using batons and tear gas attempted to restore order.

There is a common thread that sparks these uprisings. About 800 million of China's 1.3 billion people have yet to see any benefit from market reform while the corruption of local Communist party officials is ever more onerous. ... Read the rest of the article...

There is also a recent Japan Times editorial on the same subject, taking much the same line:

In recent weeks, angry Chinese have reportedly taken to the streets not only in underdeveloped interior regions but also in prosperous coastal areas in the south of the country. The communist government in Beijing faces serious challenges as it pursues an aggressive policy of economic expansion that represents an odd mixture of socialist and capitalist principles.

According to reports, many have expressed their anger in violent ways and for various reasons. In the industrial city of Chongqing in Sichuan province, 50,000 rioters laid siege to a municipal building in protest against bureaucratic abuses. In Henan province, an ethnic clash erupted between members of the majority Han group and the Islamic minority group [Hui], causing heavy casualties.

Farmers have protested violently against giant construction projects that they thought would deprive them of their land and livelihood. In Shanxi province, scores of people were wounded, some fatally, in a bloody demonstration against an economic development project that would force hundreds of farmers to evacuate. In Sichuan province, 100,000 farmers rallied against a dam construction project, inviting military intervention. In Fujian province, droves of peasants marched on City Hall in opposition to expressway construction.

Other demonstrations were peaceful, but participants were hardly content. In Guangdong province, the coastal "sun belt" in the south, residents protested against highway tolls. In the city of Shenzhen, a mecca for foreign businesses, many workers staged street sit-ins to demand wage increases.

These incidents make it clear that farmers and residents are increasingly dissatisfied with the high-handed ways in which local government officials deal with them. Those officials, long accustomed to the autocratic leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, are seen as neglecting the wishes of local people. The incidents thus would appear to frame the problem as one of an economic juggernaut trampling the grass roots. ...

An Epoch Times article from 10th November gives details of the demonstration against forced relocation connected with the construction of a dam in Hanyuan County, Sichuan Province:

... tens of thousands of people in Hanyuan County, Sichuan Province protested the government’s forced relocation: relocation made possible by tearing down their homes under orders issued by corrupt officials. Thousands lined the Pubugou Power Station on Dadu River to stop operation there.

In response, police injured several dozen people and beat one man to death.

In the areas surrounding Hanyuan County, police clashed with farmers and local students. After the police contained the situation, all lines of communication, including Internet, were cut off and traffic was tightly controlled.

According to reports from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the origin of the conflict was the Hanyuan’s county government’s forced relocation of a hundred thousand residents to build Pubugou Power Station, a hydroelectric power plant.

According to sources, local government officials and developers collaborated by reducing the compensation of property. They did so by downgrading its productive fertile farm land - claiming that it was arid, dry land near the mountains - and paying out type-five compensation that was in place 14 years ago. Those who refused to move in advance were arrested by police and public security guards.

Farmers had believed that they could still retain their fertile farmland. However, they were forced to give up the land and move to land on the hillside where only corn could be grown. Farmers were only compensated half the value of their home while corrupted officials at different levels of the government filled their pockets with the other half.

Several months ago, the farmers appealed to government officials in Hanyuan County by collecting petitions but received no response. In response to this, within several days of the dam starting operation, fifty to sixty thousand farmers living by the Dadu River broke through the armed police guarding the station and stopped operation of the dam.

The Apple Daily reported on October 31st that Li, a farmer living in Qingfu Town, Hanyuan County, said, “50,000 to 60,000 villagers in towns such as Qingfu Town, Dashu Town, Shunhe Town, who are affected by the project at Pubugou Power Station, protested outside the station Wednesday night. Villagers held banners such as “Overthrow corrupt officials!” Hoping to delay the operation of the dam, protesters braved the cold weather for two nights as temperatures dropped to 35 degrees.

“At that time, a lot of armed police and public security guards arrived. A man started to argue with police after they assaulted a seventy year-old woman. He was struck with a brick by the police which caused his death,” said Li.

On the following two days, October 28 and 29th, nearly 100,000 farmers and students marched to the county administration building and damaged the government facility, causing the government offices to shut down. Authorities urgently mobilized over 10,000 armed police to Hanyuan County. In the conflict that ensued, at least seven armed police were injured and were all sent to Ganluo County hospital. This was because it was believed that the safety of the police officers would be compromised if they were sent to the Hanyuan county hospital near the demonstration site.

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