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Chinese Farmers “Left Out In the Cold”

Posted December. 09, 2004 22:50,   


With China’s local governments focused on a number of development projects, farmers, who account for 70 percent of the population, are left out “in the cold.” Mao Zedong, in 1949, successfully wrapped up the Communist Revolution, whose stated purpose was to get “oppressed farmers” out of misery. A total of 55 years after the revolution, the situation is quite different.

The New York Times featured an article on December 9 that covered local residents’ frustration in Sanchawan, Shaanxi province and what they had to go through when their farmland was taken by the local government. The local government was reported to have development plans with the farmland. In fact, Shaanxi province is the place where Mao Zedong put his revolutionary army into order and set out to fight against anti-revolutionary forces.

Development Takes Priority:

In the early 2002, the nearby municipal government of Wuilin notified farmers in Sanchwan that they had to leave their land. The municipal government told farmers that the decision was based on an ambiguous law, which states that all real estate in China ultimately belongs to the government. In fact, the notification is part of a real estate boom, which started after crude oil and natural gas were found in Wuilin, 1.6 km of Sanchawan. Now Wuilin is considered a “Kuwait” in Chinese territory. Then Chinese president Jiang Zemin encouraged development projects during his visit to Wuilin.

Resistance Continues-

Compensation of $60 for every 675㎡ was given to each Sanchawan farmer, but later, the municipal government rented the land out to developers at a rate 50 times bigger than the compensation. So the farmers were infuriated, saying that their land was almost “forcefully taken.” And they began their protest against the local government to get back the farmland.

In December 2002, 800 farmers divided themselves into 16 groups to carry out sit-in demonstrations. In April 2003, the local government arrested all demonstrators because the five month-long rally interfered with government affairs.

In October 2003, Lui Jandu, one of the Sanchawan farmers, took the initiative to voice their strong anger, saying, “The Wuilin government is acting just like greedy landlords of Guomintang in the past.” In October and December 2003, he led his fellow farmers to Beijing to present to the central government their petition, which reads that to farmers, land is blood. However, the petition was returned to the Wuilin government.

The Government Relentlessly Cracks Down On the Farmers-

In March this year, the Sanchawan residents continued their demonstration by refusing to plant. They demanded a personal talk with the Shaanxi governor, but the municipality responded by arresting those protestors. Furious farmers, in April, occupied the local government building and continued their sit-in strike there.

The government panicked and tried to persuade those farmers to leave the government building, offering $120 per person. The demonstrators accepted the money but did not return home. Seven months into the protest, on October 4, 2000, police officers were called to the site and tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas, rubber guns and clubs. Leaders of the crowd were imprisoned on the charge of the interference with the implementation of public affairs.

The New York Times reported that it is estimated that around 100 million farmers across China have had their land taken taken for 10 years against their will, just as the Sanchawan residents.

Jin Lee leej@donga.com