2 officials fired after protest

Jul 22

BEIJING – THE Chinese government has sacked two officials and suspended relocation work after up to 1,000 people protested in a wealthy eastern province last week, angry at compensation for land seizures, state media said.

The protests lasted for four days in part of Suzhou, a manufacturing hub close to Shanghai in the eastern province of Jiangsu, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Wednesday. Residents fought with government workers and smashed equipment including chairs, desks and windows in government headquarters in Tongan town, part of Suzhou, it said.

‘Protesters also assembled on a highway and blocked traffic, but were later dispersed by police,’ the report added. They were demanding higher compensation for their land, which had been confiscated by the government for several industrial parks, Xinhua quoted a government statement as saying. Some protesters also said they suspected some officials had taken compensation money owed them.

Two officials were removed from their posts for ‘mishandling public appeals and dereliction of duty when following land compensation standards’, Xinhua said. ‘The district’s government vowed in the statement to raise the living standards of villagers who had been relocated since 2003 and lost their farmland when the project began,’ it added.

‘It also promised to provide villagers with at least 1,000 jobs each year.’ Land rights and property seizures have becoming a leading cause of discontent in a country seething over a growing rich-poor gap, worrying stability-obsessed leaders in Beijing. In 2007, China had over 80,000 ‘mass incidents’ – or riots and protest – up from over 60,000 in 2006, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The government has not given updated figures.

Many involved no more than dozens of participants protesting against local officials over complaints about corruption, abuse of power, pollution or poor wages. But some small-town protests in the past couple of years have snowballed into violent confrontations involving thousands of residents. Many heard of the unrest through mobile phone messages or over the Internet. — REUTERS

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