The big steal – Jonathan Watts

From Guardian Unlimited (link):

When China’s economic miracle caught up with Mrs Wang’s cabbage patch, she was having her hair done in a neighbouring village – too far away to hear the township official’s bellowed orders, “You have one hour to harvest your crops and then the bulldozers move in.” So by the time she found out what was going on and rushed to the site, the fields her family had farmed for generations were already being churned up by mechanical diggers.

She was distraught. But with hundreds of armed police and security guards surrounding the area, there was nothing that she – and the hundreds of other villagers who lost their land that day – could do, except stand by and watch helplessly as their property was claimed for development. “Many villagers were sobbing. I wanted to cry, too, but the tears wouldn’t come out,” Mrs Wang recalls. “I was so furious.” Six months later, the lame 60-year-old peasant – who had never been in trouble before – was in prison, charged with fomenting social unrest.

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