Losing the Countryside: A Restive Peasantry Calls on Beijing For Land Rights

The Financial Times has followed up on the nascent land rights movement, and found the “loose association of journalists, academics, intellectuals and political activists” who coordinated the farmers’ actions:

Not only were the protesters challenging the party directly, they were also organised at a national level by a sophisticated group of dissidents. The action was co-ordinated by a loose association of journalists, academics, intellectuals and political activists and its calls for privatisation of all rural land were a clear rejection of the current regime. In words that could have come from the mouth of Mao Zedong, one declaration asked: “Whose country is this? Who really benefits in the name of public interest? . . . Only when you protect the rights of the masses and help the masses to develop can you be called the government.”

The authors of the declarations are mostly based in Beijing and have so far evaded capture. They operate in secrecy and have requested that no details be revealed of their identities in order to avoid immediate arrest. Some are career dissidents while others are solid members of the party establishment; for their safety the Financial Times has decided not to reveal any more about who they are. They say they are acting out of a conviction that many of the problems faced by China’s peasants stem from the current land ownership system.

The story also includes a video interview with a farmer who had been detained for signing one of the declarations. Read more about the land rights movement via CDT.

February 20, 2008 10:59 PM
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