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Unrest Grows in China
Rural and Urban Unrest Grows in China
This article appeared in Melbourne Indymedia in Saturday July 02, 2005
Ever wondered what happens in the place where all those MADE IN CHINA stuff comes from....
With so much processed and grown imported from there and raw materials exported there a lot Australia.
2005 has seen a sharp upswing in local and international media coverage of rural uprisings happening throughout China. The most recent of these took place outside of Dingzhuo city in Northern China’s Hebei province, and gained widespread media attention as the result of video footage shot by one of the participants. The uprising took place in a small farming village called Shengyou, a village in a section of central Hebei province best known for producing wheat and peanuts.
The story behind the Shengyou uprising is one becoming increasingly familiar in China. In the autumn of 2003, local officials announced to the villagers of Shengyou that their land was to be turned over to a state-owned power company for the building of a coal-ash storage facility. The farmers who chose to leave were offered a small settlement. Though some took the compensation, others chose to defy the edict, refusing to abandon their village and erecting barricades in clear defiance local authorities. Over the course of the next several months, these villagers engaged in a tense standoff with police from the nearby city of Dingzhou. According to villagers, local police detained several among them whom they perceived as leaders, and at one point attempted to cut the town off from food and water shipments. The power company, meanwhile, mounted a series of increasingly violent attacks on the farmers, recruiting young men in Beijing and transporting them to Shengyou to harass the farmers.
In April, a group of thugs mounted a midnight attack on the farmers; during the course of the attack, one young man was caught and detained by the villagers. This man was held for the next two months, and released only after a second attack by a larger group. Before being released, the 23-year-old from Beijing told a reporter from the Washington Post that he had been paid 100 Yuan, armed with a metal pole and told to «teach a lesson» to the farmers, and that he was not mistreated during his captivity.
On the night of June 11th, a larger group of men returned to Shengyou, this time armed with hunting rifles, sharpened metal pipes, clubs, bricks and fire extinguishers. During the ensuing battle, six villagers were killed and dozens more injured. One of the injured farmers videotaped the event before having his arm broken, and managed to get the tape to the Washington Post. The video shows a gang of young men armed with pipes and shovels charging into the peasant camp.  There is an explosion, the sounds of gunshots, and screaming. The cameraman follows the brief battle before being attacked himself, at which point the video ends abruptly.
The video garnered much international sympathy for the Shengyou villagers, and as of this writing, the villagers remain in control of their land. The central government, meanwhile, seems to be trying to defuse the situation. A report released on June 19th by the Xinhua news agency states that one construction contractor and 21 accomplices had been arrested and are being charged with killing the six farmers and wounding 51 others in the pre-dawn clash. Furthermore, Dingzhou city Communist Party boss He Feng and Mayor Guo Zhenguang have both been fired, reportedly on orders issued by the central government.
One emerging item bearing closer scrutiny concerns a possible connection between the massacre and Li Xiaopeng, son of former Chinese premier Li Peng :
The Hong Kong daily Ping Guo Ribao (Apple Daily) and other newspapers of the Chinese Diaspora claim that the man behind a raid by mercenaries against farmers of Shengyou (Hebei) is none other than Li Peng’s son, Li Xiaopeng. Six farmers were killed in the raid. Li Peng, who was prime minister in 1989, is held to be the man chiefly responsible for the massacre of Tiananmen.
Li Xiaopeng is top manager of the Shenhua Company, an electric power firm which wants to expel the farmers from their land to build a new plant to make electric power from high quality carbon. Shenhua is a subsidiary firm of Huaneng International, the business complex of electric energy, run by the statesman’s son.
The Shengyou uprising is just one in a series of recent rural uprisings that have gained widespread media attention. In April, residents of the Zhejiang province village of Huaxi engaged over 1,000 police and local officials in hand-to-hand combat, eventually driving the police away. The conflict was triggered when villagers erected a roadblock to stop business at 13 local chemical plants that villagers said were making them sick and poisoning the environment. And on June 29, an urban riot involving thousands occurred in the eastern city of Chizhou in Anhui province. According to a one report, this riot was triggered by «a lopsided roadside brawl.» Six police were wounded and a supermarket looted before the crowd finally dispersed. 
According to Outlook, a Communist party-backed magazine, about 58,000 protests took place across the country in 2003, a rise of 15% over the previous year. Such figures cannot sit well with a government notoriously concerned with both the maintenance of social stability and its own one-party rule.
1. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2005/06/14/VI2005061401932.html
2. Source: Li Peng’s son implicated in massacre of Shengyou farmers Asia News, 23 June 2005
3. Source: Thousands riot in China, attack police, burn cars International Herald Tribune, 29 June 2005.