The Zhongshan Incident

English-language Coverage

(Reuters AlertNet)  Several injured in south China protest over land.  January 15, 2006.

On Saturday, several hundred people blocked a road near the village of Panlong in southern Guangdong province, protesting against what they said was inadequate compensation for their land, a teacher in the town said.  Several people had taunted the police, who called in paramilitary People's Armed Police as back-up, said the teacher, who declined to be identified. "These were hooligans who had been hired by the villagers," he said by telephone.  Several of the young men were injured when armed police used electric batons to disperse the protesters, he said. At least two or three police were injured when the young men threw stones.  Several of the young men were detained late on Saturday but had been released on Sunday, the teacher said.  No shots had been fired, he said.

(AFP via Gulf Times)  Chinese villagers clash with police over land.  January 15, 2006.

Hundreds of villagers in southern China clashed with police after about 1,000 officers were sent to break up demonstrations against land requisitions, residents said yesterday.  Several people were hospitalised after being beaten by regular and military police, a villager said, adding that many more were suffering lesser injuries.

Police in Zhongshan city, Guangdong province, confirmed that the protests started on Wednesday but refused to elaborate.  “Yes, it happened. But we are not sure about the number of people involved,” a duty officer surnamed Chen said. He refused to comment on whether police had broken up the demonstrations.

Various accounts from villagers put the number of protestors between 1,000 and 3,000 at the peak of the demonstrations earlier this week.  A villager, who declined to be named, said the numbers quickly dwindled after police armed with batons started beating people.  “Now people are too scared to go,” another villager said. “There are so many police about. They are armed with batons.” She said on Friday night there had still been more than 100 people protesting.

Villagers had started a sit-in protest outside the Sanjiao township government over inadequate compensation for farmland forcibly taken from them. When their pleas went unanswered, they had started blocking a motorway.  “That used to be our land, so it was reasonable for villagers to re-occupy their own land,” said another villager, who also declined to be named.  “People are so angry,” he said. “People have hardly enough to live on and the local officials have millions (of yuan) in their own accounts.”

Villagers said the local government had started selling their farmland to companies more than 10 years ago but had given each villager just US$49 to US$86 per year in compensation.  They said they had put up with it for years but that the money was not enough to live on with the rapid price rises in China over recent years.  “How can we live on that in this day and age?” she said. “We are unskilled farmers, we can’t find proper jobs.”

One of the residents said his family used to own three “mu” of farmland (0.2 hectares), on which they grew sugar cane and vegetables. But the government had sold their land for 100,000 to 200,000 yuan per mu.  “As a citizen in this society, we have a duty to obey the government, but things are just getting ridiculous,” he said. “What choice do we have now?”  An elderly villager surnamed Chen said that police had set up road blocks around the village and were barring outsiders from entering.  

A staff member at the village government said the incident was over.  “It was just a small argument,” he said. “It has already been dealt with.”

(AFP via SCMP)  Villagers in land protest flee police batons and tear gas.  January 15, 2006.

Thousands of villagers in a Guangdong village fled late yesterday as police threw tear gas and started beating people with electric batons to break up protests against land requisitions, residents said.  "It's chaotic here. Police are now throwing tear gas ... they've started beating people with electric batons. Everybody is running away," said a villager from Panlong village in Zhongshan city .  Another villager said: "Police were beating up anyone they saw ... I have not seen anything as big as this since June 4th."  The villager was referring to the police force used to quell the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests in Beijing, in which unarmed protestors and bystanders were killed.

More than 30 people were seen being taken to hospitals in ambulances after being beaten by regular and military police, the villager said. A staff member at the Sanjiao township People's Hospital confirmed that injured Panlong villagers were treated.  Zhongshan city police earlier yesterday confirmed the protests started on Wednesday, but refused to elaborate. "Yes, it happened. But we are not sure about the number of people involved," an officer said.

Various accounts from villagers put the number of protestors between 1,000 and 3,000 during the last week's protests, and numbers had dwindled after police armed with batons beat people.  But more villagers started joining the protests again during the weekend on the Nansan motorway and police used force to disperse the crowd, the villagers said.

Villagers had started a sit-in protest outside the Sanjiao township government office over inadequate compensation for farmland forcibly taken from them. When their pleas went unanswered, they staged a sit-down protest on the motorway.  "That used to be our land, so it was reasonable for villagers to re-occupy their own land," said a villager. "People are so angry. People have hardly enough to live on and the local officials have millions in their own accounts."

Villagers said the local government had started selling their farmland to companies more than 10 years ago but had given each villager just 400 to 700 yuan per year in compensation.  They said they had put up with it for years but the money was not enough to live on.  "How can we live on that in this day and age?" the villager asked. "We are unskilled farmers, we can't find proper jobs. As a citizen in this society, we have a duty to obey the government, but things are just getting ridiculous," he said. "What choice do we have now?"  An elderly villager said police had set up roadblocks around the village. 

(BBC News)  Villagers clash with China police.  January 15, 2006.

A number of villagers in southern China have been injured after police used batons to break up a protest over a land dispute, according to reports.  Protesters had blocked a highway in Sanjiao village, Guangdong province, to complain they were not paid enough for land bought to build a road.  "Many people were injured," a man told the Associated Press news agency - but a government official has denied this. 

The Sanjiao protests were fuelled by anger that villagers had not received enough compensation for land taken to build a road leading to a highway.  A man quoted by AFP news agency reportedly said villagers were also angry over the sale of local land to a Hong Kong-based developer.  A local goverment official told the BBC the police was sent on Saturday to quell a four-day-old protest.  He denied anyone had been injured.

According to a man interviewed by AFP news agency, the villagers started Saturday's protest in the evening in order to avoid being filmed by police cameras, which had recorded their attempts to stage demonstrations earlier in the week.  Hospitals reported receiving injured protesters on Saturday, the agency reports.  "Between 30 to 50 people were injured as police were attacking anyone they saw," a man who gave his name as Tan told the AFP agency.  A local government official contacted by the Associated Press news agency said the protests had ended on Saturday night. 

(Telegraph)  Riot squads curb latest Chinese unrest.  By Richard Spencer.  January 16, 2006.

Police used electric batons to disperse thousands of Chinese villagers, the latest angry confrontation provoked by the ferocious pace of the country's development.  Residents of Sanjiao, in the richest province of Guangdong, blocked a road in protest at the level of compensation being paid for land requisition.  Riot squads were called in and several villagers taken to hospital in confused and violent scenes. Rumour said that a 13-year-old girl had been killed, although there was no witness or police confirmation.

In Sanjiao, officials admit that there was an incident but are refusing to give more details, as is customary. Hong Kong radio reported that the protest on Saturday followed a sit-in at local government offices by thousands of villagers on Wednesday, but mainland media have remained silent.  A villager said that the government had been paying a pension of only £25 to £50 a year as compensation for taking their land.  "How can we live on that?" he said. "We are unskilled farmers; we can't find proper jobs. As a citizen in this society, we have a duty to obey the government, but things are just getting ridiculous."

(Reuters via NewKerala)  China police deny use of electric batons.  January 16, 2006.

Chinese officials today denied that police used electric batons to disperse villagers demonstrating against land requisitions in the southern province of Guangdong and said the protest was handled calmly.  ... ''Police didn't use any force. It's the few instigators who injured the villagers when they threw firecrackers at the police,'' an official surnamed Yang in the township of Sanjiao told Reuters of the latest protest that ended on Saturday.

The demonstration by the villagers of Panlong, which belongs to Sanjiao, began last Wednesday when several hundred staged a sit-in outside government offices.  A local resident said the paramilitary People's Armed Police were called in and used electric batons, or cattle prods, to disperse several hundred people blocking a road in Sanjiao to protest against the amount of compensation they were offered for land taken to build factories.

The denial also contradicted two reports in the Hong Kong media that a 13-year-old girl died of a heart attack after being hit with a cattle prod. Another Sanjiao official confirmed the girl's death but said it was unrelated and happened a day before Saturday's confrontation.  ''People spread the word, but there was absolutely no police beating. It was just a heart attack and she died in hospital,'' the official, who declined to give his name, told Reuters.  

A report carried by the official Xinhua news agency said there were initially 50 petitioners, but that the number rose to about 100 by Saturday, along with hundreds of ''onlookers''.  ''No one died in the incident ... and police used no tear gas or electronic batons or water cannon while dispersing the petitioners and onlookers,'' the report quoted a spokesman in the nearby city of Zhongshan as saying. ... Municipal authorities had ordered the local officials to handle the Panlong protest calmly and avoid clashes, the Xinhua report said, adding two police officers and three villagers were injured when petitioners threw rocks and firecrackers.  Twenty-five villagers were detained on Saturday evening but most were released after ''being educated'', the local Zhongshan Daily said. Four remaining would be held for 15 days.

(Reuters)  China seals off village after protest violence.  January 16, 2006.

China has sealed off a village in southern Guangdong province after days of protests over land grabs ended at the weekend in clashes with police that killed a teenage girl, two residents said on Monday.  They've blocked all the roads leading to the village and they searched our bodies and motorcycles," a man surnamed Yang at Panlong village in Sanjiao township told Reuters by phone.  "We are not allowed to leave after dusk."

Residents said police used electric batons, or cattle prods, when they tried to disperse a crowd of several hundred protesting against low compensation for their confiscated land.  "They turned off all the street lights and car lights before beating whoever they caught," a villager surnamed Xu said by phone. "That includes the girl -- she was just 13 and she died."  Yang echoed Xu's accounts and said he would not believe it if he had not seen it personally.

Hong Kong media said the girl died of a heart attack after being hit with a cattle prod. A Sanjiao official confirmed her death but said it was unrelated and happened on Friday.  "People spread the word, but there was absolutely no police beating. It was just a heart attack and she died in hospital," the official, who declined to give his name, told Reuters.

(New York Times)  Girl, 13, Dies as Police Battle Chinese Villagers.  By Howard French.  January 16, 2006.

A week of protests by villagers in China's southern industrial heartland exploded into violence over the weekend with thousands of police officers brandishing automatic weapons and using electric batons to put down the rally , residents of the village said today.  As many as 60 people were injured, residents of Panlong village said, and at least one person, a 13-year-old girl, had been killed by security forces, they said. The police denied any responsibility, saying that the girl had died of a heart attack.

Residents of Panlong, about an hour's drive from the capital of Guangdong Province, said the police had chased and beaten protesters and bystanders alike, and that locals had retaliated by smashing police cars and mounting hit-and-run attacks, throwing rocks at security forces.  ... "The police arrived at 8 p.m., and then started beating people from 9 p.m., trying to disperse the crowd," said a schoolteacher who spoke by telephone, giving her name only as Yang. "When this happened, the crowd got very angry and lots of people picked up stones on the ground and threw them at the policemen. After being attacked, policemen were furious, they just beat up everyone, using their batons."

The schoolteacher was talking about Saturday night, which was the sixth day of protests in the area. Villagers said the demonstrations had begun as silent sit-ins, but grew more boisterous by the day, as more and more locals joined in. Eventually, they said, as many as 10,000 police officers were deployed, roughly twice the number of protesters at the peak of the demonstrations.

... Indeed, demonstrating residents of Panlong village said their anger had been sparked by a government land acquisition program they had been led to believe in 2003 was part of a construction project to build a superhighway connecting the nearby city of Zhuhai with Beijing. Later, the villagers learned the land was being re-sold to developers to set up special chemical and garment industrial zones in the area.

The region that immediately surrounds Panlong village is among the most heavily industrialized land anywhere, and was the laboratory and launching pad for the economic changes put in place by Deng Xiaoping. These revolutionary changes revived the country and turned it, in the space of a generation, into a global economic powerhouse.

Panlong village is a short drive from Shenzhen, Dongguan and Zhuhai - all large and booming cities virtually created from scratch. It is also close to Guangzhou, the provincial capital, and to Hong Kong, whose investments helped fuel the area's takeoff. The region is not only the scene of some of China's fastest growing industries, including high-tech manufacturing, textiles and furniture - much of which is exported to the United States - it is also the scene of some of the country's worst pollution.

For most of the year visibility over the scrubland plains is so poor that beyond a few hundred yards all detail is lost behind a thick gray curtain of eye-stinging haze. Water supplies in the area are equally imperiled by the pollution. The situation has become so bad that even residents of Hong Kong, whose economy is dependent upon the adjacent region's growth, rue the environmental monster they have helped create.

Increasingly, their ambivalence is shared by rural dwellers in the area, some of the first people to benefit from the opening up of the country to foreign and private investment, which began in special economic zones in nearby areas in Guangdong as part of China's sweeping economic reforms.

"We have many special zones in this area, and each of them attracts investment," said a villager who was interviewed by telephone and gave his name as Hou. "The economic deals set in the past were not favorable, and many zones here have had smaller protests before, but the people were not united."

"Now," he added, "there are uprisings everywhere."

(Associated Press)  Chinese Patrol Village After Girl's Death.  By Audra Ang.  January 17, 2006.

Police on Tuesday patrolled a village in southern China where a teenage girl reportedly was clubbed to death during a protest over land seizures, and Hong Kong news reports quoted villagers as saying demonstrations would continue.  The girl reportedly was killed Saturday by police who clashed with hundreds of people protesting over what they said was inadequate compensation for farmland taken for industrial use in Sanjiao, a village in Guangdong province. 

"The government wants the land. What can we do?" said a woman contacted by phone Tuesday in Sanjiao who would not give her name. "It's not convenient for me to say any more."  Dozens of villagers contacted by phone Tuesday mostly refused to talk about the protest, apparently out of fear of official retaliation. 

... A waitress who refused to give her name said Tuesday she had heard that police checkpoints had been set up but had not seen any herself.  "There are no roadblocks here today," she said. "But some policemen are on patrol right now."  She said that on the night of the protests, hundreds of people swarmed near her restaurant and tried to block the highway to get the government's attention.  "I heard an official speaking through a loudspeaker," the waitress said. "He was telling villagers to go back home but they just weren't listening.

(The Guardian)  Chinese police accused of killing teenager.  By Jonathan Watts.  January 18, 2006.

Chinese police clubbed a teenage protester to death and the authorities then bribed her family to keep quiet about the killing, Hong Kong media reported yesterday, as a violent demonstration by villagers against the forced seizure of their land by developers continued into the new year.

Feng Meiying, aged about 14, was reported to have been fatally beaten on Saturday night, when police attempted to break up a protest by several hundred residents of Sanjiao, in the southern province of Guangdong.

Local residents said the security forces used electric batons and other weapons after the demonstrators blocked a road, threw stones and smashed up police vehicles. One witness told reporters the authorities switched off the street lights before the counter-attack, which led to several dozen injuries.

According to the South China Morning Post, local officials paid Feng's parents 200,000 yuan (£14,000) on condition they told the outside world she died of a heart attack. An aunt said the girl's body was cremated yesterday. She denied that Feng had been involved in the clashes with police. "My niece did not come to the highway on Saturday night because it is far from our home. She died of heart trouble," the aunt told the newspaper.

But other villagers said schoolgirl Feng had been one of the stone throwers. She was reportedly thrashed unconscious after being dragged from underneath a police car. "More than 200 pairs of eyes witnessed the girl being beaten," an unnamed villager was quoted as saying.

(Los Angeles Times)  Chinese Villagers Resentful Amid Police Clashes, Death of Teenager.  By March Magnier.  January 18, 2006.

Police tightened their grip today on a village in southern China where protesting residents say officers beat a teenage girl to death over the weekend.  The confrontation in Sanjiao, part of prosperous Guangdong province, is the latest in a series of clashes sparked by allegations of corruption and abusive land policies, along with growing suspicion among poor Chinese that the nation's economic growth has come at their expense.  The girl, whose age has been reported as 13 or 15, was reportedly beaten to death Saturday during a clash between police and protesters who had gathered outside government offices and blocked a highway.  The protesters were outraged about what they called broken promises of compensation for land seized for development.

Local authorities were unavailable for comment Tuesday, and police declined to comment on the incident. In a rare move, however, the official New China News Agency issued a statement denying violence on the part of the police and blaming the villagers for inciting clashes.  But several villagers reached by telephone Tuesday told a different story. Over the last week, they said, police used force trying to quell the growing unrest.

A resident who identified himself only as Wu said resentment rose when residents concluded that local officials had embezzled funds earmarked for displaced farmers.  "I saw police beating people, five or six people every day," Wu said. "Every street corner has four or five policemen now, and in the evenings there are heavily armed police. There are five or six trucks of them."  A farmer with the surname Yang said Tuesday that he had just returned from the dead girl's home. Her parents traveled to nearby city of Zhongshan on Tuesday to make funeral arrangements, he said.  Hong Kong media reported that the girl's family was paid as much as $25,000 to endorse a government assertion that she died of a heart attack.

In Sanjiao, residents say they were promised $2,500 per mu of land, about one-seventh of an acre, along with an unspecified annual stipend. This would have given Wu's family about $10,000, he said.  Instead, most families received only a $50 annual stipend — in an area of rapidly rising costs. Local officials reportedly sold the land for six times the price promised to farmers.

Wang Yukai of the National School of Administration acknowledged that China's disadvantaged are in dire straits but said protesters should have obtained police permission before taking to the streets.  Sanjiao residents counter that repeated efforts to work through the system were ignored. "Government officials all protect each other, and now people's lives lie in the balance," said Chen, a shop owner. "In China, we have a saying that life is sacred. Even if the girl's parents were paid $25,000, how can this justify taking a life?"

(New York Times)  Visit to Chinese Anytown Shows a Dark Side of Progress.  By Howard French.  January 19, 2006.

By day this small village in the midst of China's industrial heartland seems to be a picture of normalcy: children play in their yards, workers in uniform sweep the tidy streets and a red flag flutters proudly above an elementary school with a facade bearing a poster of the hero of Chinese economic reform, Deng Xiaoping.  But as evening approaches the streets fall eerily quiet, and if you look carefully at the cars that drive by every few minutes you see that they are filled with police officers, both uniformed and, unmistakably, plainclothes. Track down a resident, if you can find one, and that impression is confirmed.  "You'd better be gone before dark," one man told a stranger. "Pretty soon the police will be everywhere, and no one will dare go outside."

In an immediate sense this community, not long ago pure farmland and now the paved-over scene of runaway industrial sprawl, has experienced an extraordinary trauma in the last week. Villagers say two residents were killed, including a 13year-old girl, amid the muscular suppression of a local demonstration by policemen using electrified truncheons that resemble cattle prods.


In a series of interviews on Tuesday, people here made it clear that there was a broad awareness of the events in Dongzhou and of the discontent simmering in much of rural China. But they are fatalistic about their power to win redress for their grievances against the government.  "We live in this society and we just have to accept this reality," said a villager named Shen, who like several others who agreed to speak, gave only his family name, for fear of retribution from the authorities. "We have no land left. Our land has already been taken away with a compensation of only 700 yuan per person every year." That amount is the equivalent of about $90.

The strands that come together in Panlong are so typical of rural protests as to be very nearly generic.  There are small people dispossessed of their land to make way for industries or development projects.  There are fruitless efforts to seek help, from city hall to the provincial administration and all the way to the capital. There is environmental destruction on a huge scale and the loss of long-held livelihoods.  When a spark ignites the people's discontent, there are police state tactics to suppress the protests and enforce a silence over the details. Ultimately there are brass knuckles, jail and, lately, death for those who refuse to take the hint and desist.

"People here have tried everything you can think of to get the problem solved before this happened," said a resident who gave his name as Chen. "They talked to the village committee, the township and municipal governments. One of them even went to Beijing. But nothing is done - the village officials just simply ignore them."  Mr. Chen described the peak of the protests, on Saturday night, when the deaths occurred. "It was like a war, so real and so brutal," he said. "I did not see who started it, but I saw policemen were beating the villagers and the villagers were fighting back with stones and firecrackers."  Since then, villagers said, many residents are being forced to report each morning to the police, who detain them until late in the evening, when they are allowed to return home until the next morning.

As with so many recent rural protests, Panlong's problems began with land. Many villagers told stories of having been deceived by corrupt local officials who they said had enriched themselves by selling off rights to the villagers' farmland.  "Two years back, one day some villagers were asked to attend a routine meeting," said a 42-year-old farmer who gave his name as Fang. "They went and they paid 10 yuan for participation fees, and they signed in as usual. Later, when we discovered our land was being sold, we asked the village committee to explain what's going on, and they answered that we had signed the contract. Suddenly we remembered that meeting, and everyone understood that we had already been cheated."

Although there have been small protests over land issues going back to the early 1990's, villagers said trouble broke out in earnest early last week after a speech by the Communist Party secretary for Guangdong Province, Zhang Dejiang. Mr. Zhang said land issues must be resolved equitably in the province.  Brandishing his words, villagers began a sit-in and later obstructed traffic, demanding that the matter of compensation for their land be reopened. A particular focal point for the protests was the Minsen garment factory, the land for which villagers said had been acquired through corrupt deals with local political figures in Sanjiao, the town that encompasses the village of Panlong.

"The Sanjiao town area is the darkest place I had ever been to, although it is one of the richest places in the country," said one man, who spoke bitterly about the construction of palatial homes by officials connected to land deals.  "I'm a son of the senior government official," the man added. "I'm actually risking too much to meet you. I could just shut up and have a happy life, but we've got to do something so the next generations have a better and cleaner place to live."

(SCMP)  We are not giving up, say villagers.  By Kristine Kwok.  January 20, 2006.

Holding a photocopy of a news clipping dated January 5, a resident of Sanjiao township in Zhongshan jabbed his finger in the air.  "I want to ask [provincial party secretary] Zhang Dejiang what he really means by the 'three stern demands'? How could the police beat civilians who just asked for what they deserve?"

The news clipping was one of the front-page editorials published by Guangdong media last month hailing a speech made by Mr Zhang. In the speech, he demanded provincial officials observe three rules when overseeing land requisitions, one of which states building cannot start until farmers have been paid full compensation.  The villager was one of the thousands protesting over inadequate compensation for farmland forcibly taken from them in a number of villages in the town, half an hour's drive from Zhongshan.

Farmers from at least seven villages started blocking a section of the Nansan highway on Wednesday of last week after years of attempts to get various levels of government to address their compensation claims.  "We held sit-in protests outside the offices of the village and the township governments. Some of us visited the provincial petition office, and some even visited Beijing. But the visits were all useless. So we decided to block the highway to force the government to give us an answer," the villager said.

As the crowd swelled from about 400 on the Wednesday to between 1,000 and 3,000 last Saturday night, the police used electrified batons and tear gas to disperse them.  A 13-year-old schoolgirl, Feng Meiying , was allegedly beaten to death, although authorities said she died from a heart attack.  Accounts by villagers put the number of protesters admitted to hospital at nearly 100.  Police have since stepped up surveillance, which includes checking the identities of people wanting to leave their villages.  "But we are not giving up and we are not giving in to the government's violent treatment," said Aiguo villager Ms Hu.

The Sanjiao story is the latest in a number of high-profile land disputes in Guangdong. At least three villagers were shot dead in a dispute in Shanwei last month.  Farmland is owned by collectives, usually in the form of village committees. This gives the committee the right to lease land, although they are supposed to seek the consent of the users.  

Rights activist Yang Maodong , better known as Guo Feixiong , said Guangdong was now at the peak of another land requisition period.  "There have been relatively more disputes in Guangdong because land here is the most expensive in the country," he said.

The government had adopted a more uncompromising approach to handling the unrest because it had been given more autonomy in running its own affairs since the opening of the economy in the 1980s, Mr Yang said.  "The recent spate of unrest will definitely put pressure on the provincial government - we can tell that from the speech by Zhang Dejiang," he said.  Mr Yang said people in Guangdong were not afraid to voice their feelings or, if pressed, resort to violence. "If the same thing happened in other provinces, the villagers would probably just hold a sit-in."  Its proximity to Hong Kong, plus more access to information, meant many residents had learned how to stand up for themselves, he said.  "They have relatives in Hong Kong and they have access to Hong Kong television broadcasts. They know people in Hong Kong and in other parts of the world hold protests when they are discontented."  

(SCMP)  Officials to pay price for teen's death.  By Kristine Kwok.  January 21, 2006.

Two party officials in Zhongshan , Guangdong, face dismissal and another is likely to be jailed over the death of a schoolgirl last week during a crackdown on protests over land seizures.  A source said he was told by officials that it was likely that Zhongshan city party secretary Cui Guochao and Sanjiao township party secretary Guan Jianxiang would be sacked over the handling of the unrest.  Word of the possible official shake-up came after Guangdong party secretary Zhang Dejiang repeated his warning to officials on Thursday to acquire land through proper procedures or face investigation and dismissal.

Hu Dahai , party secretary of Panlong village, where most of the protesters were from, was also expected to be jailed.  "He was arrested a few days ago," the source said.  But a Panlong government worker denied the arrest.

(SCMP)  Zhongshan party chief on defensive over clashes.  By Leu Siew Ying.  February 24, 2006.

Zhongshan party secretary Cui Guozhao , the man reportedly blamed for clashes between villagers and police over land requisition in Sanjiao township last month that led to the death of a young girl, has outlined plans to improve farmers' livelihoods.  But Mr Cui, speaking on the sidelines of the Guangdong People's Congress, denied police had beaten up villagers or that the farmers were opposed to the requisition of their land. 

"Where did you see police beating people? There was no such thing. Our police did not carry any [weapons]. Some people say there were grenades, pepper spray. The [media] is irresponsible. I was there from the beginning to the end so I am the most qualified to speak about this," he said.

Mr Cui said the farmers did not have an issue with their land being requisitioned, but were seeking higher compensation.  He said farmers knew that the 12,600 yuan per hectare they would receive each year for turning in their land was more than the 350 yuan they would get from farming it themselves.  "They are hoping for higher compensation, but it has to be reasonable. During the process of requisition they made some unreasonable demands," he said.

In a discussion with Zhongshan cadres, Mr Cui said the city had to use its scarce land resources wisely and admitted that its past strategy of giving away land to attract investors had hurt farmers' interests.  To ease tensions, the government would ensure that every resident of Zhongshan was provided with social security and health insurance coverage, he said, without saying how the scheme would be funded.  The city would restart the development of Dongpu district, where 1.3 billion yuan has already been invested in the construction of a coastal industrial belt.

"Zhongshan's hope and future is in Dongpu," he said. 

(Xinhua)  Petition-led traffic blockade in Guangdong ends.  January 15, 2006.

A highway resumed operation after petitioners for land compensation who blocked a local highway in the past four days dispersed Sunday noon in south China's Guangdong Province, an official said.  No one died in the incident that occurred in Sanjiao township of Zhongshan City, and police used no tear gas or electronic batons or water cannon while dispersing the petitioners and onlookers, said a spokesman with the municipal government of Zhongshan.  However, two policemen and three villagers were injured after the throw of rocks and firecrackers at policemen by petitioners led to chaos.  The spokesman said the wind shield and lamps of a police car were smashed by petitioners.  He said some instigators of the attack were detained.

More than 50 petitioners from Panlong village Wednesday gathered in front of the government office of Sanjiao township, blocking the Nansan Road, which links Zhongshan and the township.  The spokesman said that the villagers were demanding for higher compensation for their 130 hectares of land the township government confiscated in 2003 for 180,000 yuan (about 22,500 U.S.dollars) per hectare.  Petitioners rose to more than 100 Saturday evening and the gathering attracted hundreds of onlookers. The municipal police bureau sent policemen to help maintain traffic order that night, who then were attacked by villagers, the spokesman said.

The municipal authorities of Zhongshan ordered police and township officials to remain calm and avoid clash with petitioners after receiving the report of the gathering.  Mayor Chen Genkai asked the township government to consider villagers' reasonable demand seriously and give them sincere response.  The village is now in calmness, the spokesman said.

(China Daily)  No death in villager-police clash in Zhongshan.  January 17, 2006.

In the past few days, overseas media reported that a "police-village clash," arising from a land requisition dispute in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province, resulted in a death and injuries. A spokesman of the Information Office of Zhongshan people's government talked about this in an interview.

Question: Overseas media reported that up to 1,000 villagers took part in the "police-villager clash" in Zhongshan, and the situation now is still tense. Is this true?

Answer: Recently, an incident of group petition and traffic blockade by some villagers happened in our city. On January 10, some villagers from Panlong village of Sanjiao town assembled in group at the Sanjiao town government to file a complaint about compensation for land requisition. From January 11 to the evening of January 14, some villagers assembled several times in front of the Sanjiao town government and nearby roads to block traffic, and at the peak, the number of villagers exceeded 100, and their action attracted some onlookers. Relevant departments of the city handled it properly and according to law, and the situation has been eased and is calm now.

Question: Please explain how this incident happened.

Answer: With consent from the villagers, the government of Sanjiao town requisitioned a lot of land of Panlong village for industrial development in 2003. And the town government provided compensation for land requisition and crop compensation to local villagers in time. On January 10, about 100 villagers from Panlong village of Sanjiao town assembled in group at the Sanjiao town government, saying that the then compensation standard for land requisition was too low. When their demand was not satisfied, some villagers assembled at Nansan Road to block traffic the following morning. On January 14, about 100 villagers assembled at Nansan Road again, they blocked traffic at about 8pm, and caused more than 500 people to look on. Police department sent a car with loudspeakers to persuade the villagers who were blocking the road at 9:30pm that evening, and some police went to maintain traffic order. A few instigators threw brick, stone and home-made firecrackers to the police officers and onlookers around. Two police officers and three villagers were slightly injured by stone, and the police car's wind shield was smashed. In order to restore normal traffic and prevent the incident from escalating, the police department organized police officers to direct traffic at 10:30pm that evening and took 25 suspected troublemakers to the police department for investigation. At 10:50pm that evening, villagers dispersed gradually and traffic on the Nansan highway returned to normal. During this incident, excluding four instigators who were given a 15-day detention for disrupting public order, the rest were discharged after education. In the entire process, police officers performed their duties in a civil manner and did not carry any weapon, nor did they use water cannon or teargas.

After the incident, relevant departments of Zhongshan city and the Sanjiao town government responded actively to the reasonable demands of the petitioner villagers, meticulously persuaded and explained to them, and properly handled the problem. The incident is not being handled in an orderly way.

Question: Is there a girl, a middle school student, "was beaten to death" in the clash?

Answer: The fact is: Two police officers and three villagers were slightly injured and no one was dead in this incident. Contrary to the rumor, there is no connection at all between the girl's death and the incident. The girl's name was Feng Meiying, 14 years old, a villager from Xinfeng No 5 Farming Team, Dongnan village, Panlong town. She was in her second middle-school year of her schooling at the Sanjiao middle school. The girl got congenital heart disease ever since her childhood, and once fell down and fainted due to her heart problem. On January 14, Feng Meiying and another student were riding bikes to school at about 4pm. When they came to a place four kilometers from where the villager blocked the road, Feng Meiying fell off her bike, people nearby immediately called the police for help. About 10 minutes later, ambulance came and took Feng Meiying to the No 3 People's Hospital for emergency treatment. Feng Meiying died when medical efforts failed at 6pm that evening. According to the appraisal from the experts of the people's hospital, Feng Meiying died of her congenital heart disease. 

Chinese-language Coverage (in translation)

(Apple Daily)  January 16, 2006.

(Photo from Hong  Kong Cable TV)

There was a clash between citizens and police in Sanjiao township, Zhongshan, Guangdong last week over compensation for land requisitioning.  According to the villagers, a 13-year-old girl was beaten to death and 30 to 50 citizens were injured.  As of last night, there are still more than 1,000 villagers protesting by the side of Southern Route #3 and facing off against the armed police.  When interviewed by telephone, the local villagers told our reporter that the family of the deceased girl was asked to sign a death certificate by the local government in which the cause of death was a heart attack.  The injured citizens were sent to the Sanjiao People's  Hospital and Zhongshan's Bo'ai Hospital.  Both the Sanjiao government and police declined comment.

The large-scale clash between police and citizens at Sanjiao took place on Saturday night.  About 20,000 people from more than ten villagers demonstrated at the Southern Route #3 to protest the inadequate compensation for the land requisitioned by the government.  At about 1030pm, several hundred public security officers and armed police used shields to disperse the demonstrators.  According to villagers who demonstrated: The armed police used their batons to hit anyone that they come across.  They chased people and beat them, like as if they had gone crazy.  Even our motorcycles parked on the roadside were smashed by them."

One years ago, the Sanjiao town government requisitioned 3,000 "mu" of land from the 4,000 villagers of Panlong and Huoping villagers in order for a Hong Kong developer to build a factory.  The compensation was only 840 yuan per "mu" of land.  The villagers were dissatisfied with the amount of the compensation and they even went to Beijing to petition.  When the developer began to construction on the farmland, the villagers went out to demonstrate on the highway as of Wednesday.

(Wen Wei Po)  January 16, 2006.

There was a conflict over land requisition recently at Sanjiao town, Zhongshan, Guangdong, leading to a police-citizen clash.  According to the Xinhua report, two militia and three villagers were injured.  Foreign reports claimed dozens of injured villagers, and a female middle school student died.

There is a slight respite after several citizen-police clashes over land compensation at Sanjiao town.  Many villagers are prepared to gather together again.  The villagers say that unless the local government pay up, they won't be satifisfied.

At noon on January 15, the reporter went to Sanjiao town.  As soon as we got off the expressway, we found a tense atmosphere.  Four or five police cars were parked near the entrance to the Jingzhu Expressway entrance.   The militia police on the cars were eating box lunches and drinking mineral water.

The reporter then went to Panlong village.  This village was consolidated from Huoping and Aiguo villagers, and there are about 7,000 to 8,000 residents.  According to information, the demonstrators were mostly from this village.  Almost all of the villagers took part in this matter.

According to an old farmer, the original residents of the villagers used to have an average of one "mu" of land.  But now they are left with about 3/10-th of a "mu."  The government rented the land from the villagers based upon the standard of 840 yuan per "mu" per year for a period of 50 years.  But now the government sold the land off without any contract with the farmers.  The villagers said that they were not aware of it.  The land was requisitioned for the Hong Kong capital enterprise Minsen Garment Manufacturing (Group) Limited Company (民森紡織製衣(集團)有限公司).  This enterprise has given the land requisition money to the government, but the villagers say that they have not seen that money.  Some villagers said that it has been almost one week, and they have not received any response from the government.  They will continue to use their own methods to fight for their rights.

According to reports, on January 12, large numbers of villagers at Sanjiao town were not happy with the land compensation and began a mass demonstration outside of the Sanjiao town government office.  Afterwards, they went to sit in silence at the entrance to the Jingzhu Expressway.  The local public security bureau sent out about 1,000 public security officers to disperse the demonstrators.  It was quite chaotic at the scene, and some villagers were forcibly removed by the police with dozens of injuries to the villagers.  The villagers said that the demonstration activities began at the start of the week with a peak of several thousand people.  During one demonstration, a 13-year-old girl died.  According to information, the hospital wanted to sign a letter with her family about the cause of death being a heart disease.  The detailed cause of death is still unknown at this time.

Note: Minsen Garment Manufacturing (Group) Limited Company was established in 1986.  It has invested and build more than ten modernized large garment manufacturing enterprises in Zhongshan's Xiaolan and Sanjiao towns integrating weaving, dyeing, printing, sizing, washing and sewing.  It has more than 10,000 employees.

(Ming Pao)  January 16, 2006.

Over consecutive days, there have been large-scale police-citizen clashes at Sanjiao town, Zhongshan city, Guangdong province.  The climax was reached on the night of January 14.  About 10,000 villagers gathered near the Jingzhu Expressway to demonstrate and chant.  There was a bloody clash with several thousand public security officers, armed police officers and special police officers.  The police used batons and leather whips to disperse the demonstrators, and the villagers used rocks and firecrackers to hit back.  The fight continued to midnight before it ended.  According to villager representatives, about 50 to 60 villagers have been injured after the clashes over the days.  About half of the injured villagers have been sent by police to hospitals where they are being treated under surveillance.  Another 30 or so villagers have been arrested.

According to the information, the total number of people involved in this clash is a very high number for Guangdong in recent years.  The cause was when the town government requisitioned land from the villagers in order to construct an industrial park.  This took place in Panlong, Xinfeng and Aiguo villages in Sanjiao town.  According to village representatives, the village government last year rented the land at the rate of 840 yuan per "mu" and requisitioned more than 2,000 "mu" of land, and then quickly sold the land to the developer at the price of 140,000 yuan per "mu"  If a villager refused to accept the land requisition and attempted to farm the land, the village committee will immediately send someone over to arrest him.  For the past year, 10,000 villagers have petitioned various departments in the town and provincial governments without effect.  Since Wednesday (January 11), more than 1,000 villagers have been sitting in silent protest in front of the town government office, but the town leaders acted as if they didn't see anyone.  So some more emotional villagers went to block traffic on the expressway.  This caused the local police to intervene, and that was why there were numerous clashes in recent days.

Based upon what the reporter saw in Sanjiao town yesterday, the clash has been temporarily put down by the police but the atmosphere in the town was still very tense.  Police cars were stationed at the entrance to the expressway, and a large number of anti-riot police officers were on alert there.  Any passengers who wish to proceed in the direction of Sanjiao town was questioned carefully.  In the town center, police patrol cars passed by every few minutes.  There are several anti-riot vehicles and dozens of public security officers at the town government office.  Regular government business has been suspended.

Yesterday afternoon, there were still a large number of villagers gathered to protest at Panlong village.  They were demanding the police to release the arrestees.  The negotiation between the village committee and the village representatives went nowhere.  Many villagers said that as long as the problems are not solved, they will continue to demonstrate in the streets every night.

The information from yesterday was that the clash on the previous night resulted in the deaths of two villagers.  One was a 13-year-old female student named Huang.  The other was a 50-something-year-old man.  When the reporter went to Xinfeng village yesterday, the villager said that the deceased female student was not from Xinfeng village but from Wushu village instead.  She might have died from a heart problem instead of being beaten to death by the police.

Many Panlong villagers told the reporter about their experiences.  A 20-year-old villager named Ah Bo said that he was passing the scene of the clash on a motorcycle with friends.  But the police thought they were rioters and pulled them over to beat.  The police used leather belts and shoes to assault them.  Ah Bo kept saying, "You got the wrong people!" but all that got was more beating.  The friend of Ah Bo wanted to look at the police ID numbers, but got slapped hard instead.

According to information, the Guangdong police moved several thousand public security armed police officers into tiny Sanjiao town.  Many police officers were exhausted after dealing with the demonstrations over many days.  According to a local police officer named Wang, the police have never seen demonstrators who are so tough.  These people threw rocks and firecrackers at the police, causing two serious injuries and more than 10 light injuries.  The police has been quite restrained.  He believes that the principal reason for the large-scale clash is that certain illegal elements fanned the discontent of the masses.  The police are presently looking for these elements hiding behind the scene.

Also, many Hong Kong media reporters including our reporter were temporarily detained by the Zhongshan police yesterday.  The films taken by our reporter were taken out, exposed and ruined.

(Oriental Daily)  January 16, 2006.

Yesterday, the demonstration site was calm.  The expressway that had been blocked by the demonstrators is back to normal for traffic.  Of the more than 30 injured villagers, eight of them are hospitalized, mostly for bone injuries in the ribs, arms and legs, as well as head injuries.  Some of the injured claimed that they were not demonstrators, but were forced to watch because traffic was blocked.  Some villagers said that the anti-riot police was hitting everybody.  The dead school girl happened to walk by the scene and then got injured.  She was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.  The local police have sequestered all the hospitalized villagers in one wardroom and forbad visitors unless they can be shown to be directly related.  A reporter who attempted to enter the ward to learn the truth was taken away by the police.

The scene of the clash was the Southern Route #3 across Panlong village in Sanjiao town.  By telephone, the Sanjiao public security bureau denied that there was a police-citizen clash.  They emphasized that no one is petitioning.  They also said that the deceased girl fell ill at home and it had nothing to do with any clash.

(Sing Tao)  January 16, 2006.

Yesterday, there were many police cars parked on the roads near the village where the incident took place.  The Zhongshan police set up roadblocks at any intersections.  Outsiders entering the village were questioned.  Hong Kong reporters were detained for a time.  A female villager named Su told the Hong Kong television station that she witnessed the female student being beaten into the ground by police wielding electric batons.  Later, the police claimed that the female student died of a heart attack.

(Sing Tao)  January 17, 2006

Our reporter found out yesterday from local interviews that the body of the "mysteriously deceased" 13-year-old girl was cremated yesterday.  The local talk is that the family of the girl had signed a compensation agreement with the government subject to the condition that the cause of death must be consistent with the official statement.

At the Huaqiao Hospital in Sanjiao township, our reporter saw some villagers seeking treatment.  They claimed to have been beaten by the police on the night of the disturbance.  A villager named Su said that he saw a girl fell to the ground after being hit by a police baton.  Later he found out that a 13-year-old girl named Huang (some day Feng) had died.  Su also heard that another male died that night.

At the Sanjiao town Xinfeng village residence of the girl, the reporter found no one there.  The neighbors said nothing.  A villager said that the body of the girl was cremated yesterday, and the whole family went to say farewell.  The local talk was that the family of the girl had received 200,000 yuan in compensation from the government, and they will tell the outside world that the girl died from a heart attack.

In post-disturbance Sanjiao town, the atmosphere was still relaxed on the exterior but tense inside.  At the site of the clash at the Southern Route #3 route at the entrance of Panlong village, there are still signs of the firecracker papers, bricks and lots of iron barriers.  Police vehicles filled with policemen rolled by every three minutes or so, all prepared to move immediately.  But on the other side, the villagers are insisting that they will fight to the end; if they get a chance, they will come out at night and they do not preclude the possibility of armed struggle.

"If the public security had not sealed off all the village entrances last night, everybody would have been on demonstrating on the road again."  A villager named Xu who was injured in the back said.  Many people have prepared iron pipes, hovels and even fishing bombs and they were waiting for the opportunity to block the road again.  Xu was still scared when he recalled the night of the disturbance.  At the time, several hundred demonstrators threw bricks and fish bombs at the police, and the windshield of a police vehicle was destroyed.  At 1030pm, the police decided to clear the scene.

"It was horrible.  The public security hit everyone that they came across.  They arrested anyone who resisted."  Xu and several thousand spectators scattered.  The police cleared the scene in just 20 minutes, and then they moved into the village to make arrests.  "I was interrogated by undercover policemen and I talked back to them.  So they tied my hands behind my back, threw me on the ground and kicked me."  Xu was taken away by the police.  At the police station, he saw about 35 arrested villagers.  The undercover went through the identification; twenty people were released the same night and the other dozen of so were detained for 15 days.

(Ta Kung Pao via Boxun)  January 15, 2006.

Three days ago, villagers from Sanjiao town, Zhongshan city, Guangdong province, demonstrated outside the government office over land compensation issues and also sat in silence at the entrance to the Jingzhu Expressway.  Several hundred villagers were in the demonstrators.  Some villagers had mild conflicts with the police who were trying to maintain order.  Today, the Zhongshan government department officials were negotiating with the village representatives and this mass incidence will hopefully be resolved.

According to an informed source in the Zhongshan government, the purpose of the demonstration by the villagers was to obtain more job opportunities and improve economic conditions.  The conflict over the land compensation was only a superficial problem.  The Zhongshan City committee and government leaders held an emergency meeting last night to come up with solutions, and came up with a preliminary proposal.  At 2pm today, the city government departments will begin negotiations with the village representatives.

According to the informed source, the matter should not have been hard to solve.  But some of the demands made by the villagers were based upon overly optimistic expectations and there was also an internal debate within the government.  Therefore, the negotiations on the first day did not go well.  The Sanjiao town government cadres were told that they will have to work through the weekend.

As far as the government's offer to raise the compensation level, the government proposal this afternoon contained two points:

1. The amount of compensation will be raised according to the appropriate standard.  The government hopes that this land compensation standard will be applied throughout the whole city, so that the villagers do not go around demonstrating again and again to raise the compensation amount.  This work will be determined after the Chinese New Year.

2. To quickly include the Sanjiao town residents into the social security system.  Based upon current estimates, the investment will be about 150 million yuan.  After the villagers are included into social security, each person will be able to obtain between 300 to 400 yuan of retirement money per month until reaching retirement age.  But the villagers will have to assume 50% of the insurance fee.  The rest will be assumed by the various levels of government in Zhongshan.

The peasants also hope to solve their unemployment problems.  The village representatives propose that apart from the above two items, the government should also help the villagers solve their immediate difficulties, including the employment of the surplus labor force.  Certain local Sanjiao town cadres said that they can understand that.

A town government cadres said that even if the compensation is made in accordance with the standards, each villager will be getting not more than 1,000 yuan per year.  This will not solve the problem of their daily livelihood.  The villagers who lost the land have no work  If they decide to participate in gambling activities such as mahjong or lottery, they may spend all their money quickly.  In his view, the important consideration for the government right now is to make sure that the ordinary villagers can enjoy the benefits of rapid social progress.

Sanjiao town is an economically underdeveloped area in Zhongshan city.  Some town land was requisitioned more than 10 years ago for industrial development, but the land has still not be developed.  The villagers have seen nothing in terms of land compensation, and this caused great difficulties for some villagers.  "For the trouble started by the Panlong villagers, the argument over the land compensation is only a superficial problem," said the town cadre who is highly sympathetic to the villagers.

According the villagers themselves, the government gave the land in 1993 to Hong Kong businesses to build factories at the price of 110,000 yuan per "mu" but the villagers only received a few thousand yuan in compensation from the government.  This is obviously cheating the villagers.  The villagers also said that when the clash occurred, the government brought in large numbers of police to maintain order.  Some villagers were involved in slight clashes with the police.  During the clash, the police did not open fire or use tear gas.  But several citizens were allegedly injured during the clash.

(Ta Kung Pao)  January 16, 2006.

Recently, there was a petition by villagers from Panlong village, Sanjiao town, Zhongshan city, Guangdong province.  There have been various foreign reports on this incident.  The Foreign Information Office of the Zhongshan City government issued an explanation to the media yesterday.  They emphasized that the police did not carry guns and they did not use water cannons or tear gas.  At the present, the incident has been calming down.

According to the Foreign Information Office, on the morning of January 11, some villagers went to petition the Sanjiao government over the matter of compensation for land requisitioning.  On the night of January 14, they assembled at the Sanjiao government office building by Southern Route #3 or the section across Sanjiao town's Dexinggong restaurant to block traffic.  At the peak, there were more than 100 people and it also drew some spectators.  This incident drew the attention of the city party and government, and they have set up a leadership group headed by the city party leaders.  The incident has now calmed down.

The Zhongshan city government explained that in 2003, the Sanjiao government obtained the agreement of the villagers to requisitioning a portion of the land of Panlong and Huoping villagers for the purpose of industrial development.  They government paid the compensation for the land as well as seedlings.  On January 10, about 100 villagers petitioned the Sanjiao town government because they believed that the compensation amount was too low.  Since their demands were not satisfied, some villagers gathered again on the next morning to block traffic on Southern Route #3.

At around 8pm on January 14, about 100 villagers gathered against on Southern Route #3 across the Sanjiao town Dexinggong restaurant to block traffic.  More than 500 spectators were attracted to the scene.  At 930pm, the public security bureau sent out a propaganda truck to broadcast educational information to the villagers blocking the road.  When the militia were directing the traffic, a small number of troublemakers threw bricks, rocks and large-sized firecrackers at the militia and the spectators, causing two militia police and three villagers to be slightly injured by rocks.  The windshield on the police propaganda truck was damaged.

To prevent an escalation of the incident, the public security bureau organized more than 300 militia to clear out the scene at 1030pm, and took 25 troublemakers back for questioning.  After interrogating the suspects, four of the troublemakers were held for 15 day detention while the rest were educated and released.  At 1050pm, the villagers dispersed and the traffic on Southern Route #3 returned to normal.  During the entire process, the militia adhered to strict civilized procedures.  They did not bring any guns or other weapons capable of inflicting injuries, and they did not employ high-pressure water cannons and tear gas.

The release also stated: "Many villagers in Sanjiao town applauded the decisive actions of the public security bureau."