Villagers in a bitter stand-off with a property developer in rural south-western China burned four construction workers to death in a scuffle that left eight people dead, authorities said today.
The incident in Yunnan province was one of the most violent land conflicts in recent years to strike the country’s vast rural hinterland. It cast a spotlight on the anger of residents who see their livelihoods threatened when their lands are seized by developers with the backing of local governments keen on economic development.
Often, villagers, left with no means to seek redress, have resorted to violence in defending their rights, making land disputes a chief cause of unrest in China.
“What can a villager do when he cannot resort to the law, gets no response from the local government and finds it useless to petition the higher authority?” rights advocate Huang Qi said. “So they resist with their lives.”
Alarmed by such violence, the ruling Communist Party is expected to grant more independence to local courts in the hope of alleviating tensions. A decision on the matter is anticipated next week.
State media reports said the latest dispute at Fuyou village was over land compensation. Villagers complained about low payments for land seized for a warehouse and logistics centre, a major project backed by the local government.