Farmers protest land grab with Internet suicide threat

Sixteen farmers in Zhejiang Province have threatened to commit group suicide in a letter published online protesting local government seizure of their lands.

An Internet post titled “Dissatisfied with forced appropriation of their farmlands, 16 villagers are planning to commit group suicide” began circulating on the Internet at the beginning of this month.

The post claimed that the land had been illegally appropriated in Shenzhen village, Ninghai county, and said that the farmers would commit group suicide if they were not contacted by authorities by Saturday. One of the 16 farmers, Hu Nengzhong, confirmed to the Global Times Monday that they asked somebody to post the letter on their behalf. Hu said they have tried to report their situation to higher author-ities on several occasions but failed to get any reply.

He said that the local government forcefully appropriated his 2.2 mu (0.15 hectare) of land in 2004 without providing any official documentation. The Shenzhen village government gave him 20,000 yuan ($3,011) in compensation for each mu, which Hu said was far cheaper than the market price.

According to a report by the Youth Times, the lands were appropriated over the last six years, and were used for a variety of projects, including school playgrounds and factories.

An official surnamed Hu at the Shenzhen publicity department said that all the villagers had agreed on the compensation before the appropriation took place. However, he did admit that the appropriation had gone ahead without permission from land authorities.

He guaranteed the safety of the 16 villagers, but said authorities would not be paying them more compensation.

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