Sat, Dec 10, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Chinese officials seal village after protesters killed

AP , BEIJING

Armed authorities have surrounded and sealed off a village in southern China where police fatally shot protesters this week, leaving some bodies on the ground and banning residents from leaving to buy food, villagers said yesterday.

International rights groups reported that thousands of people in Dongzhou, Guangdong Province, demonstrated on Tuesday because they were unhappy over the amount of money offered as compensation for land to be used in the construction of a wind power plant.

Police fired into the crowd, killing at least two people, the reports said. But villagers have put the number as high as 10.

State media have made no mention of the incident and both provincial and local governments have refused to comment.

One villager reached by phone yesterday said there were at least 10 deaths. She refused to give her name for fear of retribution.

"The riot police are gathered outside our village. We've been surrounded," she said, sobbing. "Most of the police are armed. We dare not go out of our home."

"We are not allowed to buy food outside the village. They asked the nearby villagers not to sell us goods," she said. "The government did not give us proper compensation for using our land to build the development zone and plants. Now they come and shoot us. I don't know what to say."

Another villager said authorities were trying to find the leaders of the demonstration.

"Several young men were shot by the police" on Tuesday, said the man, who also refused to give his name. "Their bodies are just lying there."

"Why did they shoot our villagers?" he asked. "They are crazy!"

The number of rural protests has risen in recent months as anger comes to a head over corruption, land seizures and the growing wealth gap that experts say now threatens social stability. The government says about 70,000 such conflicts occurred last year, although many more are believed to go unreported.

The clashes have also become increasingly violent, with injuries sustained on both sides and huge amounts of damage to property.

"These reports of protesters being shot dead are chilling," Catherine Baber, deputy Asia director at Amnesty International, said in a statement on Thursday.

"The increasing number of such disputes over land use across rural China, and the use of force to resolve them, suggest an urgent need for the Chinese authorities to focus on developing effective channels for dispute resolution," she said.

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