Protests were violently suppressed after the government of Wenzhou city’s Longgang town illegally sold villagers’ farmland to a natural gas company. During the resulting protests, one person was beaten to death, more than 20 people were seriously injured, and nine were arrested and detained.
Late last year, without consulting the villagers who farm the land, the government of Longgang town in Cangnan county, Wenzhou city, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, privately signed an agreement with a natural gas company. Eighteen mu (about 3 acres) of villagers’ contracted land in the villages of Zhangliang and Cenpu would be sold to the company to build a natural gas pipeline station. No provision was made to compensate villagers for the expropriation of their land.
The land in question was protected under the law and not eligible for industrial development. The plot was designated by the local government and the Land and Resources Bureau as a “Permanent Basic Farmland Protection Area.” This designation means that construction of any buildings is not allowed on the land.
Further, the farmland was located adjacent to a densely populated area. A natural gas station on that site would pose a serious threat to the lives and health of local residents.
To facilitate the sale, authorities falsely claimed that the land was wasteland, and was designated as state-owned construction land. Villagers’ rights and public safety were disregarded.
On August 8 of this year, the natural gas company prepared to start construction. Anticipating attempts by villagers to stop the project, the town government mobilized more than 100 special police officers and 300 to 400 security personnel.
Police officers brought police dogs to patrol the village:
Security forces resorted to violence to suppress resistance. One woman in her eighties visited the village party secretary to attempt to argue the villagers’ case. In response, this elderly woman was savagely beaten by several police officers, and died after returning home. To cover up this crime, officers took the woman’s family to the local police station. The family was forced to report that the woman had fallen into the river by accident and drowned. The police also threatened the family with arrest if news of the matter leaked out.
Police officers assault villagers defending their rights:
This incident was not the only example of police beating elderly protestors. That same day, more than 20 elderly women were beaten, causing several of them to sustain severe injuries.One woman suffered a fractured skull and needed to pay more than 50,000 RMB (RMB about 7,250 USD) in medical expenses. Currently, she is still paralyzed and lying in bed, and is unable care for herself.
Despite the violent suppression, the villagers did not stop defending their land. Residents set up tents next to the farmland, and each day, more than 300 villagers stood guard over their property.
In response, the government launched a brutal crackdown. At 1 a.m. on September 19, the Cangnan county government deployed 30 to 40 police cars and surrounded Zhangliang village. Police officers broke down doors and broke into homes of several villagers. Seventeen villagers were arrested.
Shortly after 6 a.m., more than 500 police officers and special police entered Zhangliang village, blocked every intersection in the village, and tore down the tents that villagers had erected to guard their farmland. After one elderly man in his eighties tried to stop the demolition, he was beaten savagely by five police officers, causing him to suffer three broken ribs and severe bleeding on his head. The police arrested him and held him at a detention center. Another elderly villager also sustained broken ribs.
During the ensuing two weeks, nearly 100 police officers brought four police dogs and patrolled Zhangliang village from morning to evening every day, forbidding villagers from obstructing the construction work.
From May to August this year, nine villagers were arrested by police for trying to defend their rights.All of them were sentenced and detained for four months.
After resorting to violence to put down resistance, the authorities then turned to coercion to try to legitimate their land grab after the fact. In late October, the government demanded that every villager sign a consent to the sale by affixing their fingerprints. Those who did not want to sign were threatened with arrest. Once all 700 villagers had signed in this way, the government could claim that residents had agreed to the construction of the natural gas station.
As a final attempt to protect their right to their farmland, the villagers submitted a petition to the national authorities. No response has been received to date.
Reported by Lin Yijiang