Unlikely Hero Takes on China’s Feudal Land Thieves – John Garnaut
IT’S 15 years since the then Heilongjiang provincial governor decreed how his most ambitious agricultural project was to be evaluated.
“The Touxing Project involves the credibility of the country and the reputation of Heilongjiang. It can only succeed, it cannot fail,” he said.
In reality, the project could never succeed. It was supposed to transform 100,000 hectares of swampy “wasteland” into farmland, but local peasants had mostly done that job already.
Officials got around this fundamental problem by appropriating existing village farmland and rebadging it as “reclaimed” wasteland, while sometimes acting as feudal landlords on the side.
But recently there have been signs that this stubborn and quixotic agricultural enterprise in north-east China may finally have met its match: the equally stubborn, equally quixotic, accidental peasant leader Yu Changwu.
[Image source: Land grab: The picturesque Heilongjiang landscape, where behind the bucolic views are greedy and corrupt officials selling the land from under the peasants.