Rioting Chinese farmers get their land back?

That’s what the article says; I only out the question mark in because it seems too good to be true.

Chinese farmers have won a dispute over land rights which culminated in a bloody riot last month in the northern province of Hebei, state media says.

The June clashes, in which six people died, were filmed by a local and given widespread publicity abroad.

Farmers in Shengyou village, northern Hebei province, were angry they had not been compensated for land proposed for a power plant’s ash storage yard. Now, the yard will be built in a place where it will take less arable land.

“[Because] Shengyou village, the originally proposed site of the power plant’s ash storage yard, has a big population but relatively little land, the Hebei provincial government… has now made a decision not to requisition land from that village,” Xinhua state news agency reported.

Dramatic footage handed to The Washington Post in June showed local farmers fighting a pitched battle with dozens of unidentified men wearing camouflage gear and construction helmets wielding hunting rifles and clubs.

So maybe protest pays off. If it hadn’t all been captured on videotape and made known to the whole world, would the government show such largesse? I really don’t know. There are thousands of riots poppung up throughout China whack-a-mole style, and if this were to become a common solution, the government is going to build up a hefty tab. (And they should, if they’re going to force people off their land.)

The Discussion: 21 Comments

To riot is glorious!

July 21, 2005 @ 8:16 pm | Comment

Moral of the story:

If the government send in scores of armed thugs to beat the shit out of and murder peasants, and then get caught on video camera in the process, prudence requires the authorities to make a big display of backing down . . . at least until the heat clears.

July 21, 2005 @ 8:20 pm | Comment

It reminds me of the King incident in LA caught on camera. Can’t trust the people who are empowered by government to do the right thing.

July 21, 2005 @ 8:29 pm | Comment

In the King incident a convicted criminal, strung out on PCP, led the police on a dangerous high-speed car chase, endangering police and civilians, and then refused to submit when finally detained, leading to a ferocious beating.

In the Hebei incident farmers were demanding just compensation from village officials who appropriated their land. The village officials then hired heavily armed thugs to attack the villagers, including the elderly, woment and children, as they were peacefully going about their business.

Rodney King was left badly bruised. 10 Hebie villagers were left dead.

Yep, practically identical.

July 21, 2005 @ 8:53 pm | Comment

I think the land users got some justice, but again it was the money, not some other issue.

July 21, 2005 @ 9:03 pm | Comment

Why are you so adamant about this? It’s a bit insulting to the farmers to say they were only motivated by raw greed; it discounts all their complaints, which seemed quite valid to me.

July 21, 2005 @ 9:07 pm | Comment

well, in this case it was about money in the beginning- compensation for land taken by the goverment. they didn’t get any. money is not the same as raw greed.

I would think that the video cinched the deal. It was about a month ago that people rioted in chongqing because they were evicted from their houses, I haven’t heard anything about them moving back in or getting compensation.

July 21, 2005 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

I agree Echo. It was about money, of course, because their land was being taken away. That is, as you say, not the same as raw greed. They can hardly be blamed for wanting compensation. I would too if I were thrown out of my house.

July 21, 2005 @ 9:51 pm | Comment

That’s why the US Constitution recognizes the right to life, liberty and property as sacrosanct.

July 21, 2005 @ 10:31 pm | Comment

Until Kelo.

July 21, 2005 @ 10:32 pm | Comment

Greed never entered my thought process in this matter. I do not think the farmers are greedy, but the issue is with money; that does not make it greed. Now the problem is that the land user does not own the land, it is not his, it belongs to a political unit. So here a poor farmer farms his land, but someone else has the right to decide whether they will sell it or not, not the farmer. That is the problem. If the farmer owned it, he could sell it, or he could keep it. That is what we do in America (or at least that was what we could do in America). All this chatter about some nobler reason for people to be against the government, etc. is rubbish. These people are interested in their own lives and in their own living, there is nothing wrong with that.

July 21, 2005 @ 11:04 pm | Comment

I think the problem may be in the way you’ve worded things JFS. You write above, “it was the money, not some other issue” and in earlier thread you expressed strong skepticism that a farmer so debilitated by pollution could rise up. Which implies maybe you think there’s some deception on their part, because they want, as you’ve said, money. And yesterday you wrote:

Protesters want compensation. I think this is the real issue, money.

My experience is that the farmers are not particularly environmentally concerned individuals, but they do think they are missing out on the economic development. If I read correctly, the nearby town had a rather serious riot just recently. I think that many of the farmers, left out of the economic miracle, seeing wealth all around them, are hunting for some means to get their “share.

Perhaps you didn’t mean to imply the farmers are greedy, but your own words could definitely leave the reader thinking otherwise. If I misunderstood you and you aren’t implying they are motivated by greed, my apologies.

July 21, 2005 @ 11:15 pm | Comment

Of course the Rodney (thanks) King and the Hebei villagers are not the same, except that some people recorded on video both incidents as is
the point that people in power cannot be trusted to do the right thing in the US or China.

Is Kelo the recent Supreme Court case that puts private property at risk to developers who can fast talk municipal governments into believing it is in the communities benefit? So Conrad’s invocation of Constitutional rights to property is not so sacroscant now. I think that decsion is really bad.

July 21, 2005 @ 11:25 pm | Comment

Actually Pete, I was being a bit snarky in mentioning Kelo, as it seems at first glance to contradict Conrad’s point and I love seeing CXonrad squirm. Actually, I think it was a misunderstood decision. It was more a matter of the justices saying it should be an issue decided by the individual states. The court was not advocating local governments seizing private property at will.

July 21, 2005 @ 11:32 pm | Comment

Under Kelo it is still unconstitutional for the state or federal government to take property from a private citizen for “public use” without (1) due process of law (e.g., eminent domain hearings, court appeals, etc.) AND (2) paying just compensation.

Kelo, in a decision from the LIBERAL wing of the Court, gave local government very great latitude in determining what is a “public use”. However, due process and just compensation still apply.

The Chinese farmers complaint is precisely that they are not getting due process or just compensation. Local government takes what it wants, doesn’t pay for it, and beats the shit out of you if you complain.

Hell, if Kelo applied to China, Chinese peasants would be dancing in their fields to celibrate their new found liberty.

July 22, 2005 @ 12:30 am | Comment

Here’s an idea I’ve been thinking about lately, what do you think?

It is now quite clear from this incident that the presence of a single digital camcorder was more powerful than a gang of lethally-armed thugs.

Camcorders are legal in China.

They may be freely purchased. They may be freely given as gifts. To anyone.

Suppose a low-profile organization was able to identify potential ‘hotspots” out in Peasantville, China. Suppose a visitor were to pass through such a village one afternoon. While the visitor was there, suppose they dropped off a gift, a piece of common consumer electronics, along with a little training on how to use it, and how to save and transmit the data recorded with it.

Nothing illegal here, just someone giving a gift that can be freely and legally purchased in any Chinese city.

Could such an effort make a difference for China’s farmers?

Maybe a foreigner passing through a small village would attract too much attention. Need it be a foreigner?

Problems: Identifying potential trouble spots in advance (information, sheer numbers of candidate sites), fund raising, logistics of delivery, possibility that locals would simply sell the gear.

On the other hand, is it possible that the central gov’t or the press would actually (unofficially) support such an effort? What could be wrong with giving someone a camera?

If someone was upgrading their camcorder/digital camera/cellphone, might they be inclined to give the older model to such an organization?

If one camcorder brought justice to a village, what could ten do? How about twenty-five digital still cameras? Or thirty cellphones with built-in digitial cameras that can instantly email a JPG?

Just wonderin’ …

July 22, 2005 @ 4:33 am | Comment

Actually, Conrad, immenent domain and due process is followed in China. What happens is slightly different, because the farmers do not own any land. The land is sold, but the farmers or others have land use rights. That is what is being considered here. For the farmer, the compensation is the loss of his crops on that land, not the value of the land. He often gets just compensation, but a mu of beans may not be that much and he probably would rather own the land and be able to decide for himself whether he wants to sell it or not.

I realize that many progressive types think that the rule of law is the solution to man’s problems, but it is just not so. All that is happening is happening under the rule of law. Even Hitler obeyed the law, of course he got the law he wanted to obey.

July 22, 2005 @ 4:55 am | Comment

Just to clarify one wee position of mine. Under the category of farmer riots, I do not have a template that says that the good guys are the farmers, the bad guys are the government officials or bussiness people, and the offense is that government types take bribes and screw the farmers or bussiness types pollute farms and screw farmers.

Rather, I assume each case is based on individual circumstances and the good guys and the bad guys are not predetermined. In the case of village in Zhejiang, from the fragmentary data that I have seen, I am inclined to think the farmers in the wrong. In the case of the Hebei village, I am inclined to view the farmers as the good guys. Again, all from fragmentary data.

Shanghai Slim, camcorders are available all over China, and Chinese are not all that dumb, many of them can figure out how to use a camcorder.

July 22, 2005 @ 5:01 am | Comment

JFS, I certainly don’t think peasants are too dumb to use a camcorder!!

Rather, I think they have limited funds and different spending priorities.

July 22, 2005 @ 5:20 am | Comment

really, really interesting idea, slim. unlikely, but really interesting…you gonna give it a whirl?

of course, eventually we’d be bogged down in information overload, but for a while at least…

July 23, 2005 @ 12:54 am | Comment

I suspect the farmers would sell the camcorders and get something they want instead.

July 23, 2005 @ 1:00 am | Comment

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