Chinese Police Quash Protest Over Land Rights

While much media attention has focused on the ongoing crackdown on Chinese activists and writers, another protest has been crushed in a village in Yunnan Province. About 2000 villagers have been protesting for the past five days against their forced relocation to make way for a hydroelectric plant; paramilitary police dispersed the protesters today, according to the Wall Street Journal:

The villagers set roadblocks, physically harassed officials and damaged government vehicles in Suijiang County in the southwestern province of Yunnan before being dispersed by paramilitary police on Tuesday afternoon, the officials said.

More than a dozen police were injured, they said. No demonstrators were hurt, said a local-government spokeswoman, who agreed to be identified only by her surname, Wu. The reports of injuries couldn’t be independently confirmed.

The protest was one several examples of civil unrest triggered by land disputes in China, where farmers increasingly are being forced to relocate to make way for housing, golf courses or large infrastructure projects.

Suijiang County is on the border between Yunnan and Sichuan province. It is near the Jinsha River site of the Xiangjiaba Hydroelectric Station, which is designed to be one of China’s largest.

International Rivers provides more information on the Jinsha River dams and the threats they pose to local communities:

The Jinsha River (or “River of Golden Sands”) is the name of the 2,300-kilometer section of the Yangtze River from Yushu in Qinghai Province to Yibin in Sichuan. Here the river carves a string of grand canyons, home to diverse ethnic minority groups and some of China’s most important biodiversity hotspots. The Jinsha River is also at the heart of one of the largest hydropower development areas in the world. Planned hydropower output in this area is equal to about ten times the power produced by the Three Gorges Dam alone. There are about twelve dams in the works for the lower and middle Jinsha River …. In addition, major tributaries to the Jinsha River are also being dammed: six dams are planned on the Min River, seventeen on the Dadu River, and twenty-one on the Yalong River.

The Jinsha River dams will alter the natural hydrology of the river, threaten fish and local incomes dependent on those fisheries, and inundate millions of acres of farmland and forest, including areas of the Three Parallel Rivers World Heritage Site. To make matters worse, the lower Jinsha River dams are being built in a national protection zone for several species of endangered fish. As many as 360,000 people could be displaced to make way for the dams, including the entire city of Zhaotong. The dams are located in earthquake zones, which pose huge risks to local inhabitants should landslides or cracks in the dams occur.