Tue, Jun 14, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Thugs attack Chinese village, kill 6

AFP , BEIJING

Six villagers were killed and eight badly hurt when several hundred allegedly hired thugs descended on a village in northern China and clashed with local residents over a land dispute, state press said yesterday.

The incident occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning when five busloads of men ransacked Shengyou village in Hebei Province with hunting rifles, clubs, sharpened pipes and other weapons, Beijing News reported.

The attackers, wearing construction helmets, were mostly young men in their twenties allegedly hired by a local electricity company, it said.

Some 48 villagers were injured and hospitalized, the paper said. Among the dead was a 60-year-old villager who was killed by gunfire several hundred meters from where the clashes took place.

The village has refused to accept land compensation since 2003 from the Hebei Guohua Power Co which hopes to build a power plant on 26 hectares of village land, the paper said.

Parts of the battle, which lasted for about an hour, were videotaped by local villagers, it said.

The clash was not the first in the village.

On April 20 a similar incident took place in which some 20 youths attacked residents in the middle of the night, telling them to move off the land, the paper said.

One of the youths, identified as Zhu Xiaorui, was reportedly captured by the villagers at that time and has been in their custody ever since.

Zhu admitted that he was hired in nearby Beijing and paid 100 yuan (US$12) to come to the village and beat people up.

Officials in Dingzhou prefecture, which has jurisdiction over Shengyou village, have set up a special group to investigate the incident.

According to the paper, the power company is seeking to requisition 116 hectares from 13 villages in the region to build the power plant, with only Shengyou village refusing the compensation package.

It was unclear why so much land was needed for the plant.

The company and local police were not immediately available for comment.

Land requisition by the state has become one of China's sharpest social issues with an increasing number of evicted people in both urban and rural regions accusing governments of illegal land grabs they say are enriching the ruling elite.

In China, all land is owned by the state, giving local officials tremendous powers over land use rights.

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