China protesters plead guilty over environment protest
BEIJING — Fourteen people pleaded guilty to “inciting violence” in connection with demonstrations in eastern China last year against a factory waste water pipeline, state media said Thursday. Police clashed with scores of protesters who stormed government buildings and damaged property in the coastal city of Qidong last July, in one of a series of environmental protests in China.
The proposals by the paper factory’s Japanese owners, which demonstrators claimed would lead to sea pollution, were scrapped. But the 14 defendants, who will be sentenced at a later date, “should be held responsible for their actions,” prosecutors said Wednesday, according to a dispatch by Xinhua on Thursday. “Prosecutors said their violent behaviour caused property losses, injured police officers and severely disrupted public order,” the report by the state-run agency said.
Demonstrations against environmental degradation have increased in China, where three decades of rapid and unfettered industrial expansion have taken their toll. Similar incidents are reported regularly around the country, many over environmental concerns that people say are linked to corruption, but authorities typically quash the protests and push ahead with the projects.
In Vietnam, rage growing over loss of land rights
Faced with a group of farmers refusing to give up their land for a housing project, the Communist Party officials negotiating the deal devised a solution: They went to a bank, opened accounts in the names of the holdouts and deposited what they decided was fair compensation. Then they took the land. The farmers, angry at the sum and now forced to compete for jobs in a stuttering economy, blocked the main road connecting the capital to the north of the country for hours in December. In a macabre gesture, some clambered into coffins.
Police who came to break up the demonstration were pelted with rocks. Several people were arrested. “This is an injustice,” said Nguyen Duc Hung, a rice farmer forced to give up 2,000 square meters (215,000 square feet) of land he had worked for more than 15 years. “The compensation money will help us to survive for several years, but after that, how can we make our living?” Forced confiscations of land are a major and growing source of public anger against Vietnam’s authoritarian one-party government.
They often go hand-in-hand with corruption; local Communist Party elites have a monopoly on land deals, and many are alleged to have used it to make themselves rich. These issues unite rural and urban Vietnamese in a way that discontent over political oppression tends not to. Land disputes break out elsewhere in Asia, notably next door in China, but they have particular resonance in Vietnam, where wars and revolutions were fought in the name of the peasant class to secure collective ownership of the land. http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20130131/API/1301310560?tc=ar
PAME unionists face prosecutor after storming labor ministry office
Thirty-five anti-austerity protesters, members of the Communist Party-affiliated PAME union, were to face a prosecutor on Thursday in Athens after storming the office of Greece’s Labor Minister on Wednesday. The suspects have been accused with disturbing the peace and damaging public property. Hundreds of unionists reportedly gathered at the capital’s Evelpidon court complex to protest their detention.
On Wednesday, riot police were deployed to remove the demonstrators from the office of Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis and 35 people were taken into custody. The union was allegedly protesting comments Vroutsis had made about the social security system. During the operation, police fired teargas and used batons to disperse roughly 300 demonstrators who rallied outside the ministry in solidarity.
“Violence in any form must be condemned,” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said in a statement Wednesday condemning the occupation of the labor minister’s office. “The government will not put up with this kind of incident,” he added. PAME denied the government’s claims that Labor Ministry offices were damaged during the protest. The union said the damage in the ministry was done by police as a “provocation” against unionists. In statements Wednesday KKE spokesman Thanassis Pafilis slammed the ministry’s “vulgar propaganda” and asked police to release footage taken during the operation.
KKE leader Aleka Papariga returned from a visit to farmers demonstrating in Thessaly to demand the release of those detained. SYRIZA, the main left-wing opposition, also called for their release. In a related development, Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias on Wednesday said that the conservative-led government would continue its clampdown on crime and law-breaking. “The law must be enforced for everyone,” Dendias said. “The country must finally settle its accounts with the post-1974 era,” he said pledging to deal with violence, crime and illegal immigration.