Desperate times call for desperate actions apparently, and now is the winter of the villagers’ discontent. I don’t know if holding the local communist official hostage is a wise strategy, but when in the course of human events…
More than 1,000 villagers in inner Mongolia took the local communist party chief hostage yesterday in the latest land dispute to rock the Chinese countryside.
Amid signs of division in the government about how to handle rural unrest, the residents of Qianjin village have driven off hundreds of armed police and blocked construction of a motorway they claim is being built through their crops and homes without adequate compensation.
“About 2,000 protesters have surrounded the local government office,” a resident, who declined to give her name, told the Guardian by telephone. “They are holding the general secretary and another official.”
Another resident, a middle-aged man who gave his surname as Zhang, said this was the first time the village had been in conflict with the police. “We only want our land and fairness,” he added.
The villagers in one of China’s poorest provinces say they had been paid only a fraction of the 9,900 yuan (£650) they were promised for each of the 180 mu (about 667 square metres) of land requisitioned for the motorway.
In protest, they halted the work by occupying the building site and seizing construction equipment. Last week they repelled more than 100 police who had been sent in to empty the site and arrest the ringleaders in a six-hour clash.
“The entire village is in a state of anarchy,” Han Guowu, the district chief, told Reuters. “Please trust the party and the government.”
But such pleas are falling on deaf ears as more and more Chinese peasants take matters into their own hands.
I really like that, “Please trust the party and the government.” A one-word response will suffice: “Why?”
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.