Monday, October 10, 2005

Big trouble in China

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1588521,00.html

Benjamin Joffe-Walt, 10 October 2005, in the Guardian, wrote about Lu Banglie:

"He lay there - his eye out of its socket, his tongue cut, a stream of blood dropping from his mouth, his body limp, twisted. The ligaments in his neck were broken, so his head lay sideways as if connected to the rest of his body by a rubber band....

"Mr Lu spent his adult life working to empower villagers and to get the attention of Beijing and the world. He was beaten up many times, had scars all over his body. This, he thought, was part of his work...

"What I can tell you is that what's going on in Taishi is perhaps the most significant grassroots social movement China has seen since the Cultural Revolution, a rural revolt against corruption, against deterioration of healthcare, against the illegal sale of farmland, and broadly against urban capitalism that has reaped no benefits for these farmers."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1588510,00.html

Jonathan Watts, on 10 October 2005, in The Guardian:

"One of China's leading democracy activists has been beaten, possibly to death, in front of a Guardian journalist. Lu Banglie was last seen lying unconscious on the side of the road on Saturday night after an assault by a mob which had joined forces with police to stop a car containing him, the Guardian's Shanghai correspondent, Benjamin Joffe-Walt, and two other people.

"They were on their way to Taishi, a village in the southern province of Guangdong which has become the latest flashpoint in a growing wave of rural unrest that is proving the greatest threat to the rule of the Communist party since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989...

"Mr Lu, one of a new breed of peasant leaders elected without the support of the party, had been in the area on the outskirts of Guangzhou city since August, encouraging residents to vote out officials accused of corruption.

"With Taishi seen as a symbol of the movement for peasant rights, this was an increasingly dangerous activity. Several academics, lawyers and human rights campaigners have been arrested by police and threatened by a mob that villagers say has been hired to keep visitors away. Several journalists who have entered the area have been detained or beaten, most recently last Friday, when correspondents for Radio France and the South China Morning Post were assaulted."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1588726,00.html

Jonathan Watts, 10 October 2005, in The Guardian:

"Lu Banglie... was one of the first popularly elected village chiefs in China. In contrast to the students from elite universities who were at the centre of the demonstrations 16 years ago, he spent most of his life - like the vast majority of the 1.3 billion population - as an ordinary farmer.

"But growing social inequality, rising awareness of legal rights and the advent of the internet prompted the 34-year-old and many others to campaign in a way that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Taishi, the scene of the beating that appears to have cost Mr Lu his life, has become a symbol of this movement. The protests seek to capitalise on the democratic rights granted to villages at the end of the 1980s, but which have been widely ignored by officials.

"Little more than two decades ago, this community on Guangzhou's outskirts was filled with farmers and paddyfields; now many of its 2,000 residents work in the industrial park. But lifestyle changes have failed to keep up with rising expectations. As is the case for most of the tens of thousands of protests each year, frustrations have focused on a land dispute and suspicions of corruption among local cadres. The Taishi saga started on July 28 when 400 villagers petitioned to remove the village chief, Chen Jinsheng, whom they accused of embezzling collective funds from land sales and factory rentals.

"Rural unrest throughout China is on the increase. The government says 3.6 million people took part in 74,000 'mass incidents' last year, up from 58,000 in 2003. In April, villagers in Huankantou, in Zhejiang province, beat off 1,000 riot police in a dispute over pollution from chemical factories built on disputed property. In June, six residents of Shengyou village, in Hebei province, 125 miles south of Beijing, were killed by 300 government-hired men seeking to seize farmland from villagers. Last month, hundreds of farmers in Meishan county in Zhejiang staged a demonstration against a battery factory. Hundreds of smaller incidents are thought to go unreported every week."



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