Angry scenes in China amid land grab protest

Villagers in southern China were Friday locked in a tense standoff with police after angry protests over land rights, local residents said, as Beijing prepares for its annual meeting of legislators.

Residents of Shangpu, in the province of Guangdong, have occupied the village square since last Friday amid claims that corrupt local officials were selling local land, the US-based Radio Free Asia website reported.

Hired thugs employed by local officials attempted to remove the protesters on Sunday but were repelled in angry scenes which saw 30 cars being smashed, RFA said.

Police arrived to clear the square and became caught up in the clash, it added.

Six people were arrested, according to the website of the local Jiexi county government. Authorities have since called on the protesters to clear the square, RFA said.

A nearby resident who spoke to AFP said the demonstrators were continuing to occupy the square, in a protest echoing a dispute in the nearby village of Wukan which became a symbol of resistance against corruption last year.

The resident, who gave his surname as Lin, said: "Right now, both sides are in a stalemate, but there is no more fighting. Police have blocked roads to keep other people away. Meetings are being held."

Another villager, surnamed Li, confirmed the road blockage and said 10 or more people had "suffered serious injuries" since the tensions started.

Li said that officials in Mianhu township, which has jurisdiction over the area, had called the residents "unreasonable" and blamed them for the trouble. He added that villagers appealed to senior officials and were awaiting a reply.

Villagers in Wukan began protesting in September 2011 in what was initially seen as just another bout of social unrest in China, where land grabs have become a major source of discontent.

But the death of one of the protest leaders in police custody two months later led to villagers taking their demonstration a step further, barricading roads leading into Wukan and facing off with security forces for more than a week.

Then, unexpectedly, Communist Party authorities backed down and promised villagers rare concessions, including pledges to investigate the land dispute and allow village polls to be held in an open manner -- a first in Wukan.

Many in Wukan claim little has changed since the elections, which were held at the start of last year's annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), or parliament.

This year's meeting begins in Beijing on Tuesday.

  • COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more 8 hours ago
    COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more

    Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. A social media junkie, she tweets at @kixes. The views expressed are … Continue reading →

  • Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future 11 hours ago
    Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future

    It’s more than just its inherent speed, or the whooshing noise that fills the cabin like a school choir jamming with James Hetfield. It’s what it represents in an industry full of skeptics. It’s a portal into the future – a time capsule left by some mad scientist born decades too soon. It’s something that shouldn’t exist. And yet it does.

  • 919 reasons to love: Flickr photo of the day 12 hours ago
    919 reasons to love: Flickr photo of the day

    We've brought you the drive video of the $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder -- an 887-hp hybrid supercar with two electric motors working in harmony with a big 4.6-liter V-8. But how about this? Porsche's hybrid Le Mans racer -- the 919 Hybrid, sent to us by Kevin Leech. Get on board with electrification, folks. Because it's taking over the world.