December 10, 2005


Protesters in China Said to Be Killed
: Police allegedly open fire on farmers seeking compensation for seized land and cordon off the village. State media and government are silent. (Mark Magnier, December 10, 2005, LA Times)

Heavily armed riot police tightened their grip on a village in southern Guangdong province today after fatally shooting residents earlier in the week who were protesting a power project, villagers and human rights groups said. [...]

Residents said they were told by power plant managers that a substantial sum had been paid to local officials to distribute to farmers losing land, but that it was never passed on to them. Work on the $743-million project started a year ago. The two units are scheduled for completion by 2007.

"Without land, we have no income," said Jiang, a tomato farmer with three children. "Thousands of police are all around our village. The kids' school has been shut and our family is holed up in the house."

"The brother of my friend was shot dead," said Cai, an 18-year-old resident, in a telephone interview. "He was 21. His parents, brother and sister knelt crying in front of police. They've been crying for days."

Some villagers said they hoped the central government would act against local corrupt officials.

"The police have total authority, they can surround villages or do whatever they want to isolate people," said Wu Guoguang, a professor at Canada's University of Victoria and a pro-reform government aide prior to the Tiananmen massacre. "Why would they do something so radical as to kill people?"

Human rights activists called for an independent investigation and said the incident underscored the need for reform of China's property rules, a source of enormous local frustration.

Technically, all property still belongs to the state. Corrupt officials often exploit this to seize land that farmers have tilled for generations, then turn around and sell it to developers.

"Courts are not the answer because there's no real law for property," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "It's a recipe for major problems."

Residents said the police who opened fired Tuesday appeared to be from the area, but reinforcements sent later were outsiders equipped with armor, shields and machine guns. Experts said it was unclear whether local police had panicked and exceeded their authority, or whether there had been a policy shift by the central government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 10, 2005 8:15 AM

The "policy" was set by the central government in 1989 - it hasn't changed since.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 10, 2005 9:31 AM

Ladies and gentlemen,

Your next world superpower.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 10, 2005 10:41 AM

These are the same people who want to control the Internet.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 10, 2005 11:07 AM

hey, at least they didn't put dog collars on those villagers before gunning them down like... dogs. think Amnesty Intl. will say boo about this ? guffaw.

Posted by: ed murrow's toe at December 10, 2005 11:27 AM

What's striking to me is the geographic pervasiveness of these uprisings. Some readers may not realize that the datelines of these reports span most of central, western, and northern China. Southern Guangdong province, the subject of the above report, is mighty close to Hong Kong (Guangzhou, formerly Canton, is one of the major manufacturing cities in China, capital of Guangdong province, and a few hundred miles up the Pearl River from Hong Kong).

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at December 10, 2005 11:40 AM

Fred, Thanks for the information, I was wondering about that.

Posted by: jdkelly at December 10, 2005 12:55 PM

say good-bye olympics

Posted by: apollo's toe at December 10, 2005 4:10 PM

Fred is right (although Guangzhou is probably only 100 miles from Hong Kong, maybe less). Most of the other 'reports' we have read are from the hinterlands. This is not. If there are protests in Harbin from the toxic spill, then those are not, either.

I doubt if there is any danger of losing the Olympics at this point (there is currently no alternative), but if "crowd" control becomes an issue in Beijing, then the Central Committee (or whatever they call themselves) is going to be up against it. The same for Hong Kong or Shanghai - there are just too many Westerners there.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 10, 2005 4:47 PM

"Courts are not the answer because there's no real law for property,"

Since Kelo v New London we have the same problem here, just without the murders.

Posted by: pj at December 10, 2005 5:47 PM

And with constitutionally ordered compensation.

Posted by: oj at December 10, 2005 5:52 PM

And, you know, judicial process and less killing.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 11, 2005 1:29 PM