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Seven Killed in Clash over Land in Hebei

At around 4:30 AM Saturday, over 200 young men, dressed in uniforms and wearing construction hard-hats, and armed with hunting rifles, swords, sharpened pipes, rods and fire extinguishers, attacked farmers living in huts built on a piece of forsaken land near Shengyou Village in the south of Dingzhou City, Hebei Province. Six farmers were killed in the attack, 48 others injured and hospitalized, eight of whom are in critical condition, farmers told Beijing News on Sunday afternoon.

Officials with the publicity department of the Dingzhou municipal Party committee said that the Baoding municipal government, which has jurisdiction over Dingzhou, has set up a special group to investigate the incident. The group is headed by the secretary of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee of the Baoding municipal Party committee.

Farmers told Beijng News: "On the dawn of Saturday, over 200 people jumped off five buses, assaulted the farmers and smashed the huts."

"A guy was shooting at us with a double-barreled hunting rifle," said farmer Niu Zhenzong, who saw his fellow villager Hou Tongshun being shot.

Farmer Huang Jinfeng, said with a swollen right eye that the attackers attacked everybody they came across. She was hit in the face with a brick while she was trying to escape with other villagers.

Others said they attempted to fight back with farm tools such as shovels but had to give up because the attackers' weapons were much more sophisticated.

The chaos was captured on video by one of the farmers.

The villagers said the attack lasted for over an hour before police and ambulance services were called in. At about 9:00 AM, the police and medical workers arrived and injured villagers were sent to hospital. Most of the injured had already been taken to the People's Hospital of Dingzhou and the Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in the neighboring Xinle City even before the ambulances arrived.

A similar incident occurred at the same place on April 20. Villagers said that at about 2:30 AM on April 20, about 20 unidentified people attacked them with clubs. One of the attackers was captured and imprisoned in a cellar.

The detained attacker, in his 20s, identified himself as Zhu Xiaorui. He said he used to be a waiter in Beijing. A man called Qiangzi invited him to come to Hebei and promised to pay him 100 yuan (US$12.08) for his services. Zhu said he and other attackers, most of whom are unemployed, went to Hebei from Beijing by bus.

Niu Zhanzong and other Shengyou villagers said that the attackers shouted "Zhu Xiaorui, where are you?" as they attacked the village on Saturday morning.

On Sunday, the Beijing News was told by the People's Hospital of Dingzhou that many attackers were also injured and hospitalized on Saturday but left on Sunday.

The villagers said the Hebei Guohua Dingzhou Power Plant, a key national project, requisitioned 387 mu (25.8 hectares) of land from Shengyou Village in 2003. Dingzhou's Land Resources Bureau said that compensation for each mu (0.07 hectare) of land would be 15,480 yuan (US$662.12), which was considered too low by villagers who asked to see the land requisition contract and other official documents on the criteria of compensation for requisitioned land.

Because their demands were not met, the villagers built huts on the requisitioned land, thereby hindering construction of the power plant.

A July 2004 report by Hebei Youth News said on April 5, 2004 the Guohua Dingzhou Power Co. issued a document to villagers saying the plant had paid 59.29 million yuan (US$7.16 million) in compensation for the 1,748 mu (116.53 hectares) of land it requisitioned in Dingzhou.

The news report added that according to the director of Dingzhou's Land Resources Bureau, the 1,748 mu of land was spread across 13 villages in two townships. Aside from the fees turned over to government departments, the per-mu compensation was about 15,000 yuan (US$1812), which every other village, except Shengyou, accepted.

On Monday evening, Dingzhou TV reported that the Hebei provincial Party committee had removed He Feng, secretary of the Dingzhou municipal Party committee, and Guo Zhenguang, mayor of Dingzhou, from their posts.

On Monday, the newly appointed acting mayor of Dingzhou visited the villagers hospitalized at the People's Hospital of Dingzhou, and vowed to commence thorough investigations into the incident, promising severe punishment for the thugs.

Also on Monday, Shengyou villagers took their "hostage" Zhu Xiaorui to the office of the villagers' committee to be locked up. They also removed the bodies of four of their fellow villagers from hospitals in Xinle City to the village committee, where the corpses were preserved in ice along with that of Hou Tongshun.

Another body of a dead villager remains at the People's Hospital of Dingzhou.

Beijing News also reported that one of the attackers had died.

Under the guidance of the special investigations group, police have held many rounds of talks with the villagers, asking them to dismantle their huts they built, leave the place as well as release their "hostage."

Villagers said they knew "it's not correct" to hold Zhu hostage but they "don't have any other options." They said they had treated Zhu "quite well," feeding him meat and eggs and letting him out of the cellar once in a while.

Beijing News also reported that the Dingzhou municipal government is determined to solve the land dispute in a proper manner, and begin the construction of the cinder lot, already delayed for two years, as soon as possible.

(Beijing News, translated for China.org.cn by Chen Chao, June 14, 2005)

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