Category Archives: housing demolition

“The Wukan Protests –Because Something Is Happening Here But You Don’t Know What It Is”

China Law and Policy has an article for people wondering about exactly how the situation in Wukan developed. If you are curious about why land grabs are such a common source of anger in China, take a look. Otherwise, their conclusion about whether or not Wukan represents some kind of change:

Wukan is not an example of villagers seeking their rights under the law. China’s property laws – the PRL and the LAL – provide little rights to villagers.

But there is certainly something happening here… I’m just not so sure what it is and perhaps it is still too early to determine if Wukan is in fact a harbinger of something more. Protests in China against rural land takings and the lack of just compensation occur on an almost daily basis. But in Wukan, these protests were large, public and extreme. Add to the mix that one of the protest leaders died while in police custody.

On some level Wukan had the potential to end differently, to end violently. But it didn’t. Instead, the provincial government stepped in to admonish the local officials (although interestingly enough such punishment is going to happen outside of the legal system and under shuangguai, the Party adjudication method – see Nanfang translation), praise the villagers, admonish against further protest and agree to provide greater compensation.

But how often can the provincial or central government step in and continuously calm these tensions? Arguably the government must recognize that it is the structure of the law itself that leads to such discontent. But such a discriminatory law is necessary to provide for real estate development, an increasingly important part of China’s GDP. Will the government change this paradigm and provide equal property rights to villagers? Right now it is unclear. Wukan seems to have ended in the same way as all of these protests do. But perhaps this time the central leadership will realize that constantly involving itself in these local protests is unsustainable.

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“China’s rebel villagers in Wukan threaten to march on government offices”

Amazingly, Wukan is still holding stable- the Telegraph has the latest:

During another day of protests and marches, Wukan village representative Lin Zulian addressed a crowd of more than 6,000, pledging to fight with their lives against the corrupt system which has robbed them of their coastal land and of their village leader, Xue Jinbo.

“We give the local government and police five days to hand back Xue’s body. If not, we shall climb over our barricades and march on the [Lufeng] town hall to try and get his remains,” said Mr Lin.

Last week protest in the village saw the local party and police lose control and flee the area, for the first time on record. In retaliation police have mounted a seven-day blockade that is choking the village of food supplies.

As the protesters filed passed the now empty village administrative centre, they slid paper notes into a ballot-like box and gripped onto their banners demanding democracy.

“If they have 100 coffins, they can bury me in 99. But I will save one for the corrupt officials who have been working with business people to take away our rights and our friend,” said Mr Lin.

Among their angry chants, the villagers once more voiced support for the Communist Party and the central government – and called for top to bottom transparency among their leaders.

It is to the capital, Beijing, that the mainly peasant farmers and fishermen look for salvation – as well as justice and emancipation from the long reign of a crooked local government that has been chased out of town.

The Sunday Telegraph toured the village barricades yesterday. Sawn down trees, crudely tied trip wire, wood embedded with nails, strategically scattered broken glass and stockpiles of rubble projectiles are the main defence against any goon snatch squads who dare to enter the village.

But defiance and anger remain the most potent weapons against the increasing number of paramilitary police seen mustering at checkpoints on the main roads.

Some villagers have walkie-talkie radios but mobile phones remain the main means of communication.

Fearing the government will soon cut the lines and down the internet connection, gongs have been placed at the barricades and are to be sounded to summon the village to defend against attack.

“There is a lot of anger here. They have been robbing and lying to use for a long time,” he said.

The small fishing vessels are tied up – unable to be put to sea because of a small flotilla of marine police are blockading the small bay’s entrance, according to Chen. “They chase you back in,” he said.

A slogan adorning a government funded hotel which was due to be open next year reads: “Running along the seaside in the golden times!”

“They built it on our land. We want it back,” said Chen.

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Filed under Communist Party, corruption, housing demolition, local governments, protests

“Pair take a stand in Wukan, China, but for how long?”

Tom Lasseter has a new article about Wukan, where the status quo holds for now:

Lin Zulian and Yang Semao are wanted men.

The mayor of the city that oversees this farming and fishing village has publicly named the pair as main agitators of Wukan’s recent rebellion against the local government. Acting Shanwei Mayor Wu Zili vowed to crack down on them and their allies, according to state media.

Such a threat would terrify most Chinese in a nation infamous for police state tactics. But on Friday morning, both men stood in front of a crowd of thousands here and railed against local corruption.

“The officials are lying to the villagers,” Yang said, standing behind a large photograph of Xue Jinbo, a fellow advocate who died in police custody Sunday. A few minutes later, he burst into tears that were echoed by heaving sobs from the rows of people in front of him.

While the open flouting of government rule in Wukan almost certainly won’t last very long — and it’s occurring only in one nook of one province — moments such as the rally Friday are breathtaking for an authoritarian state. The leaders of the revolt, which has sealed off the village from security checkpoints, are attempting to make the point that, as Lin said, “the people who have committed crimes are the corrupt officials.”

So far, Beijing is trying to contain Wukan’s message both physically — with police at the main road leading into the village — and in the realm of public opinion by censoring news and comments on the Internet.

In the meantime, officials are trying to drive a wedge between locals. Some residents have received text messages urging, “Please calm down, the leaders are already dealing with the problem.”

But calming the populace has become more complicated as China’s rocketing economic expansion runs parallel with strictures on political discourse, a combustible mix that gives officials access to riches at the same time that it restrains citizens’ ability to speak up.

Adding to the potential troubles, the government may have provided the rebels in Wukan with a martyr.

Xue Jinbo was part of a committee of 13 villagers, including Lin and Yang, that formed in September to negotiate with area officials after demonstrations and a police crackdown that month. After plainclothes security took Xue away last Friday, state media announced that he’d died Sunday of heart complications.

Xue’s family and seemingly everyone else in Wukan thinks that he was murdered, and they cite as proof the government’s refusal to release his body.

“For those who’ve seen my father’s body, they believe that he was beaten to death,” said Xue’s son, Xue Jiandi, a 20-year-old university student in a brown flannel shirt and jeans.

During memorial services Friday for Xue Jinbo, groups of villagers walked down a green carpet in groups of 30 to 40, stopping to bow in unison and pay their respects to a picture of him. Women wailed beneath a blue funeral tent.

The procession of mourners lasted for hours.

At one point, a man stood outside and yelled: “There is no body! There is no body!”

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“Chinese police besiege town and cut of food supplies in bid to quell riots”

Sounds like things are still getting worse, not better, in Wukan. Malcolm Moore has… more:

The latest protests began on Sunday, when police attempting to arrest a villager were repelled by villagers armed with sticks. The police fired tear gas before retreating.

At the same time, the local government brought the village’s simmering anger to a boil by admitting that Xue Jinbo, a 43-year-old butcher who had represented the villagers in their negotiations with the government, had died in police custody of “cardiac failure”.

Mr Xue was taken into custody last week and accused of inciting riots. Mr Xue was widely believed to have been tortured, perhaps to death, and his family were rumoured to have found several of his bones broken when receiving his corpse.

On Monday, around 6,000 people attended Mr Xue’s funeral and photographs of the massed crowds paying their respects circulated on the Chinese internet. “We’re very pained and angry at his death,” said one villager who declined to be named. “He didn’t commit any crime. He was just a negotiator speaking with the government, trying to get our land back. He was defending farmers’ rights.”

Meanwhile, more photographs showed thousands of Chinese police massing on the roads surrounding Wukan and villagers said that a blockade had been imposed. Villagers using the internet inside the cordon claimed that supplies of food, including rice were running low. “A lot of policemen are assembled outside the village,” wrote one villager on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, who named himself as Charles Suen.

If the Guangdong Model is a serious alternative, now would be a good time to prove it…

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“Fresh protests at restive Chinese town”

From FT we hear that Wukan, in southern China’s Guangzhou province, still hasn’t been brought back under full control by the government:

Officials in a Chinese village that has been the scene of months of unrest were taken hostage earlier this week in the latest escalation in a dispute over land rights.

The hostage taking – which ended with the officials being released – came after the arrest of one of the leaders of a series of protests in the village of Wukan. The villagers returned to the streets on Tuesday with at least 2,000 gathering to demand the release of Zhuang Liehong, who had organised petitions against an alleged land grab by local officials.

Wukan was the scene of violent confrontations between residents and local police in September, when a government office was damaged. Police responded with force, which locals said involved indiscriminate clubbing and beating of residents, including children.

Non-violent protests started again in late November when 4,000 villagers complained that a government investigation into the alleged land grab by a powerful developer in collusion with local party officials had not been carried out as promised. Online comment last month lauded the government for allowing the protests.

One 20-year-old villager on Tuesday told the Financial Times that the protest was a signal that locals were prepared to “fight to the death”.

On Monday, police set up road blocks on the road to Wukan, ostensibly for the purpose of cracking down on “gangs”, after residents took the village governor and a dozen officials hostage as part of a protest. The officials were later released.

“The person who was arrested didn’t commit any crime. He didn’t beat people and he didn’t sell drugs,” said a local businessman named Mr Sun. “The government here is terrible and have dark minds. If the villagers won in the end, the officials would lose their position so they try every way to make us give up.”

A local government spokesman said there was no clash on Monday but that villagers had detained officials for a few hours. “Villagers always go to the village committee to express their complaints,” Mr Huang said. “Things are developing. Details will be announced in official reports.”

Valiant effort at spinning it, Mr. Huang! I had no idea villagers were allowed to detain officials, what an intriguing development.

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“4,500 march against land grab in Lufeng, Guangdong”

Via Shanghaiist, reports and pictures from a protest in Guangdong:

Thousands of protestors from Wukan village marched today in what appears to be a well-organised, peaceful demonstration in Guangdong’s Lufeng city. They carried colourful banners with slogans against corrupt government officials and dictatorship as they demanded for the return of their farmland.

‘The government promised to solve the land problem but they haven’t… If they don’t handle it this time, it won’t be peaceful next time.’ The protest centres around land requisitioned in Wukan village, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Lufeng government.

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“Land Sales Hurting China’s Poor”

Well, duh. Still, Bloomberg has the latest:

Bulldozers razed Li Liguang’s farmhouse four years ago after officials in the Chinese city of Loudi told him the land was needed for a 30,000-seat stadium.

What Li, 28, says they didn’t tell him is that he would be paid a fraction of what his plot was worth and get stuck living in a cinder-block home, looking on as officials do what he never could: Grow rich off his family’s land.

It’s a reversal of one of the core principles of the Communist Revolution. Mao Zedong won the hearts of the masses by redistributing land from rich landlords to penniless peasants. Now, powerful local officials are snatching it back, sometimes violently, to make way for luxury apartment blocks, malls and sports complexes in a debt-fueled building binge.

City governments rely on land sales for much of their revenue because they have few sources of income such as property taxes. They’re increasingly seeking to cash in on real estate prices that have risen 140 percent since 1998 by appropriating land and flipping it to developers for huge profits.

There’s more to come. Some 60 million farmers will be uprooted over the next two decades as the urbanization that propelled China to the world’s second-largest economy gathers pace, according to an estimate by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. In many cases, officials take land they don’t use, an August report from the academy said.

That was the final insult for Li. The rice and bean plot his family farmed for generations still lies empty, weeds sprouting from the red earth. Villagers are convinced that the city has sold it to developers, even though they can’t point to any documentation to prove it.

“They flattened the land and still haven’t used it,” says Li, a wiry man with short-cropped hair, sitting inside the hut he built in a garbage-strewn alleyway across a main road from the stadium. “They sold it for I don’t know how many millions of yuan.”

Officials in Loudi, located in central China in Mao’s home province of Hunan, wouldn’t answer questions about whether plots in Li’s village were sold or what they will be used for.

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