Land Protests Show Rural Rifts

Article excerpt

BEIJING (dpa) - Five years ago, Xu Kun and Feng Guangmei ran a shop in the fishing village of Baihutou, or White Tiger Head, in southern China's Guangxi region. Many residents of the beachside village were prospering as more and more tourists arrived to enjoy the nearby white sands. But everything changed in mid-2007, when the local government announced plans to relocate the villagers and demolish their homes to make way for a tourist resort. The villagers were shocked as they thought they owned the land rights. Many of them decided to challenge the local government's right to sell the land. ''We didn't want to move because we relied on the sea for our living,'' Feng told dpa in Beijing recently, explaining that many people in White Tiger Head still fished. Feng's husband, Xu Kun, was sentenced to four years in prison in April for ''illegal business activity.'' Xu's appeal against his sentence was turned down and Feng's petitioning of higher officials in Guangxi and Beijing drew a blank, she said. Feng insists that Xu was persecuted because he led the land protesters and won election to the post of village head in 2008 and 2009. His protests in White Tiger Head ended after he barricaded himself inside the village office as he was surrounded by scores of riot police. Such scenes are becoming more common across China as a growing number of protesters fight alleged corruption and secret land deals by local officials. Xu was luckier than at least two other leaders of village revolts, according to activists who accuse local police and officials of covering up the murders of Qian Yunhui and Xue Jinbo. Villagers in the neighbouring southern province of Guangdong plan to hold Xue's funeral on Friday in Wukan, where thousands of people have occupied the centre of the village this week as riot police lay siege. Xue, 42, was arrested following protests and clashes with police in Wukan in September over local property developments and alleged evictions. The government has insisted that Xue died of a heart attack, but activists have linked his death to that of Qian, another village land activist who was crushed by a truck in the eastern province of Zhejiang in December 2010. …