Death and Civil Unrest in Yunnan

Three weeks ago, police suppressed a demonstration over forced relocation in Yunnan’s Sujiang county, and days later The Guardian reported on a separate protest that erupted in the southwestern province when a rubber farmer killed herself in dispute of a land grab. AFP reported today of another episode of public dismay in Yunnan, this one resulting in the death of a policeman:

Angry villagers protesting a local mining operation in southwest China attacked security forces with machetes and clubs, leaving one policeman dead and 15 injured, local authorities said on Friday.

[…]“Suddenly villagers attacked the police with machetes and wooden clubs, leaving 16 injured, one of whom died later while receiving treatment,” said a statement released by the government of Lijiang – which oversees Renhe.

[…]Earlier this month, locals from Xiaoganqing village complained that the development of a local coal mine was endangering their lands and demanded their homes be moved and that they be compensated, the statement said.

A spokeswoman for the Lijiang government told AFP those complaints went unanswered and so the villagers moved their protest to the Renhe government building, where they stayed one week until the violence on Wednesday.

China Daily has news of yet another demonstration in Yunnan, sparked by the mysterious death of a local in custody:

The party secretary of Laodian township has been suspended from his post and a special work team has been set up to look into the case, according to a statement from the Qiaojia county government, which administers Laodian.

A conflict broke out on Tuesday when authorities in Laodian attempted to demolish an illegally constructed building owned by villager Ding Fachao.

Ding died on Wednesday morning after a half-day stay in a township government office.

Villagers had been rallying outside the township government’s offices since Wednesday to demand an explanation for Ding’s death. The crowd dispersed on Thursday after negotiating with local officials, the statement said.

China Daily’s focus on the investigation of local officials reflects a point recently raised in the Asia Pacific Memo:  local protest in China is sometimes a sign of faith in the central government, not opposition to it:

Protests in China are often assumed to be ultimately aimed at regime change. But while protests reflect grievances, they also demonstrate faith that the state will respond to protesters’ demands.

Local authorities are directly responsible for the welfare and livelihood of the people in the area they govern. The central state makes its preference for local resolution of complaints abundantly clear: officials who do not prevent collective complaints originating in their areas from reaching higher levels face disciplinary consequences that can affect their careers.

[…]Local protest followed by some accommodation can act to reaffirm the system. While oppositional dissent faces harsh state repression, not all protest is treated in this way. Some protests—perhaps many—are a routine feature of negotiations in local politics.

April 20, 2012 1:08 PM
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Categories: Human Rights, Law, Society