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Dozens Hurt as Police, Farmers Clash in China

Wed Jul 27, 2005  7:11 AM ET
By Benjamin Kang Lim



Farmers clash with police officers in Qianjin in China's northern region of Inner Mongolia July 27, 2005. About 2,000 disgruntled farmers have clashed with hundreds of policemen in the region, in a land dispute that injured dozens with one government official calling the situation 'anarchy'. Photo by Stringer/China/Reuters



BEIJING (Reuters) - About 2,000 disgruntled farmers have clashed with hundreds of policemen in China's northern region of Inner Mongolia in a land dispute that injured dozens with one government official calling the situation “anarchy.”

The July 21 clash in Qianjin village, a part of Tongliao city about 450 miles northeast of Beijing, was one of a growing number of protests across China, most of which go unreported in the tightly controlled state media.

“We were caught by surprise. Police punched and kicked villagers even as they lay on the ground,” one farmer said requesting anonymity.

“We’re ready to risk everything. If one government official comes, we’ll take on one. If several come, we'll fight it out with several,” the farmer told Reuters.

Police reached by telephone declined to comment.

But Han Guowu, chief of Ke'erqin district in which Qianjin is located, insisted that police did not assault villagers.

“Police were under orders not to retaliate when hit or verbally abused and restrained themselves,” Han said in a telephone interview.

He played down the clash, saying villagers had pelted police with chunks of hard clay, breaking the nose of one officer, smashing the window of a police car and breaking a video camera.




The farmers had refused to turn over their land and had blocked construction of the highway for two months, he said.

“The entire village is in a state of anarchy,” Han said.

He dismissed accusations by farmers that the government had hired thugs to break into villagers’ homes in the middle of the night and assault them. He also denied corruption allegations.

“Please trust the party and the government,” Han pleaded.

In an editorial, the Thursday edition of the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, will call for perceived threats to stability to be crushed.

“Destabilizing factors must be resolved at the grassroots and nipped in the bud,” the Xinhua news agency quoted the editorial as saying. Land disputes, corruption, abuse of power and a widening gap between rich and poor were among the reasons leading to the number of protests shooting up to 74,000 last year from just 10,000 in 1994, a Hong Kong newspaper reported this month.

The number of people involved in those demonstrations jumped to 3.76 million in 2004 from 730,000 a decade earlier, the Beijing-funded Ta Kung Pao quoted Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang as telling parliament’s top advisory body.

Last Thursday’s clash lasted about six hours, a second farmer said, adding that policemen, some of them armed, were eventually outnumbered and fled after other villagers rushed to the rescue.

Dozens of injured villagers were taken to nearby hospitals, the farmers said.

Farmers seized bulldozers and other construction equipment intended for use in building a highway across the farmers' land, which had been reclaimed by the government, the second said.

Last week, farmers in the northern province of Hebei won a battle over land rights after months of protests culminated in a violent clash, one of the bloodiest in a wave of rural riots.

In June some 300 toughs with rifles, clubs and sharpened pipes descended on Shengyou village in Hebei and clashed with the farmers, who were angry over a lack of compensation and staged a sit-in on land slated for a new lime plant.

Six villagers were killed and scores injured. The clash highlighted growing disputes over land rights in China, where rapid development is encroaching on rural property and where the government places an overriding emphasis on social stability.

Police arrested 31 people and detained another 131. Those arrested included the Communist Party chief of nearby Dingzhou city, who was sacked after a Beijing newspaper reported the riot. (Additional reporting by Vivi Lin and Guo Shipeng)





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The Mongols at China's EdgeThe Mongols at China's Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity

China's Pastoral RegionChina's Pastoral Region: Sheep and Wool, Minority Nationalities, Rangeland Degradation and Sustainable Development

Changing Inner MongoliaChanging Inner Mongolia: Pastoral Mongolian Society and the Chinese State (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

Grasslands and Grassland Science in Northern ChinaGrasslands and Grassland Science in Northern China: A Report of the Committee on Scholarly Communication With the People's Republic of China

The Ordos Plateau of ChinaThe Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment (Unu Studies on Critical Environmental Regions)
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