Villagers Protest Land Grab, Demand Democracy

Police have set up a blockade around the Guangdong village of Shangpu, just 100 kilometers away from Wukan, after residents clashed with thugs they claim were sent by the local communist party chief in connection with a disputed land deal. The villagers have demanded democratic elections, according to AFP, which has gained entry into Shangpu:

At the main entrance of the village of 3,000 people, 40 police and officials stood guard, barring outside vehicles from entering. Not far away, a cloth banner read: “Strongly request legal, democratic elections.”

Shangpu’s two-storey houses, typical of the region, and low-slung family-run workshops are surrounded by fields awaiting spring planting. But the main street is lined with the wrecks of cars damaged in the clash, with glass and metal littering the ground.

Residents said they should have the right to vote both for the leader who represents them and on whether to approve a controversial proposal to transform rice fields into an industrial zone.

“This should be decided by a vote by villagers,” said one of the protest leaders, adding: “The village chief should represent our interests, but he doesn’t.”

Residents told AFP that the village chief and party head fraudulently collected signatures to facilitate the transfer of farmland to a local businessman for industrial use, and they fear they will not be properly compensated. China’s state-run Global Times reported on Monday that the county-level public security bureau arrested the village leader and eight others it claims were hired by the village leader to attack the Shangpu residents:

County authorities said that on the morning of February 22, village committee director, Li Baoyu, called police to report he was attacked in his office and injured by six masked thugs. Less than an hour later, police say, Li hired his own thugs from other villages and ordered them to attack residents of Shangpu village, said the newspaper.

According to county police the fight injured four residents and damaged at least 26 vehicles, two of which were burned. Police earlier arrested Li, and on Friday eight other assailants were detained. The police are still hunting for 10 other men.