Villagers protest over illegal property sales

GUANGZHOU – More than 300 people gathered around the provincial government offices in south China’s Guangdong province Monday in a protest over the alleged illegality of commercial real estate sales in their village and embezzlement of the sales revenue by local officials.

The petitioners, from Zhongdongxi village in the city of Heshan, gathered at the gates of the offices of the provincial government, the provincial committee of the Communist Party of China and the committee’s commission for discipline inspection to voice their grievance. Their actions caused the blockage of nearby roads.

The petitioners said they were representatives of the 4,400 inhabitants of Zhongdongxi and they left the village at 5 am in a bid to get to the government agencies before senior provincial officials arrived at their offices.

The village head, together with his two nephews and township and city officials, secretly sold collectively owned roadside shopping buildings worth hundreds of millions of yuan, the villagers claimed.

The protesters said they believed the village head and others embezzled a huge amount of sales revenue as they put only 60 million yuan ($9.4 million) under the village’s account.

Zhongdongxi village, 60 km from the provincial capital of Guangdong and covering three square km, is the largest shantytown within the urban areas of Heshan.

The city government has acquired most of the village’s land in the urbanization process, and in order to guarantee the long-term interests of the villagers who lost their land, it asked property developers to transfer roadside shops and some factory buildings to the village as collectively owned assets.

Villager Feng Rinan said the village head and the two nephews had been put under detention, but their relatives said over the past couple of days that the three would soon be bailed and their detentions were only a ruse.

The petitioners left the government offices at about 4:30 pm after provincial authorities agreed to launch an investigation into the alleged illegal property sales case.

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