December 7, 2005

China police open fire on land rights protesters

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police opened fire on villagers
protesting against the lack of compensation for land lost to a
new wind farm in the southern province of Guangdong, local
officials and residents said on Wednesday.

U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Asia and residents said at
least two villagers were killed in the assault after riot
police moved into the area on Monday to quell the unrest in the
Guangdong village of Dongzhou.

"In the beginning, there were about 100 to 200 villagers
protesting and gradually the number got bigger as more and more
people came to watch," said an official surnamed Chen in the
nearby city of Shanwei.

"The police didn't bring guns at first, but some villagers
used pipe bombs to attack the police, so the police station
sent more police with guns to the scene," he said.

Police detained three representatives from Dongzhou on
Tuesday, which prompted thousands more to come and demand their
release, the Radio Free Asia report said, putting the number
involved in the demonstration at 10,000.

China has seen increasing disputes over land rights and
compensation as breakneck development encroaches into rural
areas, and although the Communist Party is bent on maintaining
stability, popular protests are becoming more frequent.

Guangdong is one of the provinces that is pioneering wind
power as China, the world's top coal producer and consumer,
looks to renewable power sources to help alleviate an energy
crunch and choking air pollution.

Residents said they did not object to the new plant but to
the fact that they had not been properly compensated for their

"The central government sent money for compensation but the
corrupt officials who were supposed to give it out stole it
away," said one resident.

It was unclear how many people were injured or killed in
the clashes.

Radio Free Asia, quoting a hospital official, said two
villagers had died. One resident said "several" people had been
killed while another, whose husband participated in the
protest, put the number of dead at 20.

"No one dares go out," said one, adding that parents were
keeping their children home from school.

An official at the Dongzhou hospital said he had not heard
of any deaths but that several injured were in hospital.

Another resident said when she left work on Tuesday the air
was so thick with tear gas she could not open her eyes.